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Citizen's complaints: Give all justice
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-13 01:04

The country's top legislators and political advisers have urged Party and government departments to better deal with complaints of common people so as to eradicate roots of social unrest.

The inadequate organizational establishment and weak supervision have restrained the complaint-lodging work, known as Xinfang in Chinese -- literally letters sent, and visits made by the public to authorities.

Xiao Jianzhang, a member of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), has raised a proposal to the current CPPCC session, calling for more attention from governments to the work of Xinfang which has been on the rise in recent years.

When people's interests, especially those at grassroots level, were violated and their gripes could not be handled fairly, some prefer to request help from higher authorities either by sending mail or making personal visits.

Official investigations found that arrears in wages and social security funds, problems related to farmers and rural affairs, unfair court judgments and corruption are the hottest issues among public complaints.

Different Party and government departments have established their own bodies to handle peoples' complaints, but they do not share their information interdepartmentally, according to Xiao, the former vice minister of justice.

"And there are few complaint-handling departments at the township level, from which most of the complaints and conflicts arise,'' said Xiao, suggesting such bodies should be set up at the grass-roots.

"An effective monitoring and supervision mechanism should be established to improve the efficiency in handling complaints," said Xiao.

When departments of Xinfang receive complaints from people, they usually transfer complaints to relevant government departments at lower levels, asking them to help solve the problem.

Because of lack of supervision, many government departments either ignore or deal with these complaints inactively, which leads to disappointments.

One example is a construction worker from Jiangsu Province with the surname of Jiang, whose wages had been in arrears for the whole year because the owner of the building he worked on refused to pay money to Jiang's company.

Jiang and his colleagues visited the complaint-handling department of provincial government to seek help several times, and each time they were informed that their requirement has been passed to "relevant department."

"Now, three months have passed, and we have not got any information at all," he said, despairingly.

Zhang Chengqi, a deputy from Hebei Province to the National People's Congress (NPC), received many such complaints from local people after his address was published by news media.

He said it reflects the people's trust in NPC deputies and the people's congress should play a bigger role in supervising how the complaints are handled.

Zhang's view is echoed by Ying Xing, an associate professor from the China University of Political Science and Law, who said that the people's congress, whose deputies are representatives of the public, should be empowered with more supervising weight.

But from a long-term view, the system of Xinfang will likely be abolished when China's legal system is improved, he predicted.

If the problems and complaints can be settled through legal procedures, the complaint-lodging to Party and government departments will disappear, he said.

While under the present situation, the country should strengthen the organizing work of Xinfang so as to give the public a chance to vent their dissatisfaction, according to Ying.

Top Chinese leaders attach great importance to properly handling complaints of the people and regard the work as a reliable channel to reflect the problems of grass-roots society to both the government and the Party.

NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo said in his report that the NPC Standing Committee received 31,000 personal visits and handled 57,000 letters in the past year, expressing determination to safeguard people's interests.

Zhang Yuqing, a NPC deputy from Shenzhen, said it is an encouraging gesture for Wu to stress the importance of properly dealing with petitioners' letters and visits.

He said that some officials still have the wrong perception and regard petitioners as "trouble makers."

Applauding Wu's report, which says that Xinfang work serves as a bridge between policy-makers and common people, Zhang said it will be of help to policy-making.

Zhou Zhanshun, former director of the State Letters and Complains Bureau, said in January that over 80 per cent of the complaints were reasonable and 80 per cent can be and should be solved by local governments.

Zhou said that Party and government complaint-handling departments above the county level received over 8.64 million letters and personal visits in the first nine months of 2002.

Gong Xueping, a NPC deputy from Shanghai, said the local government has invited 161 NPC deputies in the city to act as information collectors who are responsible for reflecting complaints from different aspects of the society.

Some of the deputies, in addition, are required to meet visitors from the public and assist in the investigation of important cases arising from complaints, said Gong.

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