China PM’s meet with petitioners a carefully orchestrated political show, Human Rights Watch says
Posted by Author on January 26, 2011
By Susan Stumme (AFP), Jan. 26, 2011-
BEIJING — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has met citizens in Beijing petitioning for redress over unpaid wages, home demolitions and land grabs, state media said Wednesday — the first such meeting in six decades.
Wen’s visit to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls — where petitioners go to file complaints with authorities — highlighted the mounting anger felt by many Chinese living in a one-party state that enforces its will by diktat.
It was the first such trip by a premier since communist China was founded in 1949, the reports said, and it received widespread coverage in print and broadcast media.
But amid rising levels of public protest across China, Wen’s conversations with unhappy citizens were slammed by Human Rights Watch as a political show.
Under a system dating from imperial times, Chinese people can petition government authorities in Beijing or provincial capitals over injustices or unresolved disputes such as illegal land grabs or police misconduct.
However, many of the millions of petitioners each year complain of official indifference to their concerns and occasionally lash out in frustration, while others report being detained by authorities in so-called “black jails”.
The premier — sometimes called “Grandpa Wen” for his down-to-earth style — said during Monday’s visit that as long as petitioners’ complaints were “reasonable”, they would be resolved.
“We should use the power in our hands to serve the interests of the people, helping them to tackle difficulties in a responsible way,” Wen said, shaking hands with those filling in forms and queuing to submit their papers.
“Land is the lifeline of farmers,” Wen said.
The government is gearing up for its annual session of parliament, which will begin in early March, and Wen’s visit to the petition office signals a government conscious of public anger.
Land disputes have become China’s most volatile social problem as officials and developers seek to cash in on the nation’s property boom, sometimes forcing people out of their homes without proper compensation.
One family are locked in a standoff with police at their Beijing clothing shop, threatening to set themselves on fire after they were told the shop would be demolished to make way for a new subway line.
Some have used the Internet to rally support for their causes as the web, used by more than 450 million people in China, offers an outlet to expose abuses in a country where traditional media are heavily censored.
President Hu Jintao came under pressure last week during a state visit to the United States to do better on human rights, with President Barack Obama saying the “universal rights of every human being” had to be upheld.
Hu admitted “a lot” needed to be done in China in terms of human rights but emphasised that “different national circumstances” had to be considered.
Human Rights Watch criticised Wen’s visit as a carefully orchestrated move that “will be widely propagated to Chinese citizens through state media with the explicit message that the Chinese Communist Party leadership cares”.
“The fact is that the system is broken and that petitioners are far too often subject to abuses even greater than those which prompted them to petition in the first place,” the New York-based group said in a statement.
HRW said the fact that millions of people file petitions each year was “proof positive of the lack of true rule of law in China”.
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This entry was posted on January 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm and is filed under Beijing, Black jail, China, Forced Evictions, Human Rights, Land Seizure, Law, News, Official, People, Politics, Social, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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