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Law targets petitioners (again)

Is another crackdown on the way?

It’s become almost a routine: Every year, the authorities issue another law that ostensibly tells local governments to properly handle petitioners.

The latest, publicized this week, states that officials “will be held responsible if they fail to properly handle petitions by crowds and negative public opinions.”

In the past, when the emphasis is on preventing protests rather than the causes, local governments have interpreted these decrees as carte blanche to round up petitioners and send them home, helping to keep the officials themselves out of any potential blowback.

So common is the strategy—officials putting more effort to silence protest than resolve the complex root issues—that it was one of the central elements of the award-winning 2017 Chinese film I am Not Madam Bovary.

Sources cited in the past have indicated that as little as 0.2 percent of petitioners ever have their grievances addressed.

To learn more about these issues, check out our series of interviews with petitioners: While the bulk of cases concerned forced demolitions, there were many other reasons to protest, ranging from a man seeking justice for his murdered son, through to victims of massive nationwide scams, and the unique case of an ethnically Russian-Chinese hockey player denied his household residency.


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