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III. The Petitioning System

All of China isn’t corrupt, because if it were it would be total chaos. But all you need is for half of the people to be corrupt.
Yuan, a rural petitioner, Beijing 2005

The modern petitioning system is the product of a long history. For centuries under China’s imperial systems, commoners had the right to report official misconduct or to appeal judicial or administrative decisions to higher levels of government. 22

Petitioning is an indigenous cultural and legal tradition that has long buttressed a rigid hierarchy. In many respects, it is an expression of the Confucian philosophy that was the basis of Chinese feudalism: petitioning is premised on appeals by commoners to the better nature of their rulers, a plea for the protection of one’s superiors. Superiors are not required to intercede, but may choose to do so, depending on their degree of benevolence.

Early Confucian texts refer to commoners submitting memorials with their complaints to the emperor. Later, during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Chinese citizens were able to present written appeals to imperial censors relating to official misdeeds or incorrect legal decisions by local magistrates. Petitioners who received no redress or who were dissatisfied would go continuously up the chain of command, some eventually traveling to the imperial capital. Once there, an appellant could:

[B]ang the “grievance drum” outside the offices of the censorate and the capital gendarmerie (bujun tongling yamen), both of which were authorized to accept capital appeals….To…reach the emperor directly by either kneeling before the palace gate…was not impossible but was illegal…[but] the hope was not farfetched since emperors seem to have been sympathetically predisposed to capital appeals.23

In the waning days of the Qing empire, problems became increasingly apparent in the imperial appeals system: the number of appellants increased rapidly, “swamping the ability of imperial institutions to handle” the complaints.24 Local officials and warlords began to struggle with petitioners in the attempt to cover up local problems.25

Party leaders reestablished the petitioning system in the early 1950s, using the petitioning system as a source of information that assisted the Party in consolidating political control.26 In the 1980s, the petitioning system gradually expanded to establish specific complaint offices within the government, courts, procuratorates, and people’s congresses.

The Petitioning System in Theory and Practice

In essence, the petitioning system functions as a general complaints system for complaints about any government misdeed, ranging from minor bureaucratic infractions to official corruption and police torture. Petitioners submit statements describing their complaints, and petitions offices are supposed to review the complaints, investigate the cases, and issue a letter about the matter. In some cases, a petitions office may transfer the case to a different government agency.

In theory, the petitioning system establishes a mechanism for independent review of local government. In practice, the petitioning system is overwhelmed by the quantity of complaints, while officials often have a disincentive to process complaints about their misdeeds or those of their colleagues.

Petitions offices range in size depending on the region and available resources; they can be a separate office inside a government bureau or Communist Party office, or merely a desk within a local office.27 Today, every level of people’s government at and above the county level is required to create a petitions department of some kind. All government departments at or above the county level or at the town or township level are required to assign a work unit or individual to be responsible for all petitions.28 Provincial regulations “often require the creation of a [petition department] at every local people’s congress, court, and procuratorate at the county level and above.”29 In practice, for a variety of reasons, petitions may drag on for many years without resolution.

According to the latest set of national regulations, petitions offices must review a complaint brought in writing or in person within fifteen days, and either issue some suggestions on the case, or refer it to be handled by the relevant government agency.30 If the matter is handled by that agency, the agency concerned must also issue a decision within fifteen days.31 The department that handles the matter must investigate the case, and may choose to hold a hearing.32 After investigating, the agency should issue some kind of written notice or letter.33 According to the current regulations, the case should be handled within sixty days of the time when it is submitted to the petitions bureau; agencies may extend this time limit for complex cases up to thirty more days.34

As a system of redress, the petitioning system has generally failed. The growing numbers of petitioners and petitions are too many for the system to handle. Most petitioners––and for that matter, many officials––are never entirely sure at which level of government a petitioner should file her or his complaint, nor is it clear exactly what kinds of petitions should be handled by which departments. As this report documents, some petitions are transferred repeatedly from bureau to bureau. Should a bureau decide it has the power to handle a certain petition, the existing regulations make it unclear what exactly any one official or department has the power to do, aside from reprimanding other petition officials for mishandling petitions. Moreover, in a relic of the imperial legal system, few decisions are ever final.35 As a result, many petitioners from around the country become frustrated with their provincial and local petitioning systems and eventually take their complaints to Beijing.

Once in Beijing, many petitioners travel from bureau to bureau, trying their luck at each. One website lists over fifty petitioning offices at various ministries and government organs in Beijing alone.36 According to the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences survey, petitioners interviewed had visited an average of six different bureaus in Beijing, while some have been to as many as eighteen. These included the National Bureau of Letters and Visits, the State Council, the Supreme Court, the Communist Party Central Disciplinary Commission, the Public Security Bureau, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the National Bureau of Land Resources, the Agriculture Bureau, and the Civil Administration Bureau.37

       Petitions posted outside the Chinese Supreme Court building in Beijing.
          ©2005 Private

Each petitioning bureau is required to have a “reception place” and petitioners are allowed to present complaints only at these designated sites.38 Facilities differ. The petitions office of the State Bureau of Letters and Visits is a small, often dirty room with neither chairs nor tables. Petitioners are required to line up in front of a small reception window to air their grievances and present their petitions and materials while standing.39 The Beijing Municipal Government Office of Letters and Visits has a slightly nicer room with chairs where petitioners may sit while waiting for their turn at the window.40

These offices are always crowded, and often petitioners gather outside the buildings, carrying placards or wearing white shirts on which are painted narratives detailing their case. Some petitioners who come from other provinces bring children and elder relatives to stand in line with them. Many petitioners carry around not only copies of their written statements, but also bundles of evidence. These can include a typed or handwritten statement summarizing the case, often accompanied by sheaves of evidence: court decisions, past correspondence with officials, photographs, and testimony by witnesses. Others have recounted their stories to so many different officials that all relevant dates and facts have long been memorized.

Lack of Effective Remedies

While China’s government continues to be a hierarchical one, and provincial authorities must answer to their superiors, on matters that are not considered a governmental or Party priority, national-level authorities often have little direct control over low-level officials at the county, township and village level. A letter from a national office to a local official does not compel a response, and some local officials simply choose to disregard them.

Perhaps because it can take many years of petitioning in Beijing to obtain one, some petitioners who receive a written response view them with high regard, even though the letters themselves are ineffectual, notes a lawyer who has assisted many petitioners:

One of my clients was an intellectual whose son got into a conflict, was taken to the police station, and came out dead. The police said that nothing had happened and that he had died of natural causes. His father took a stack of photographs of him, and you could see all over his body were stab wounds and bruises…

The father appealed and appealed, and he lost one suit after another as he went up the system—even the [provincial] supreme court. Finally, he started petitioning…[and eventually], he got a statement from the [national] petitioning office saying, ‘Please will the [provincial] court investigate this case.’

It was a treasure to him, he kept it carefully and he showed it off to everyone. But of course, there was no power to implement it.41

Most official responses from petitions offices are similar: they are usually just form letters from to local authorities, requesting that they “investigate” or “take care of” the individual case locally. However, petitioners say that these letters rarely carry much weight with the officials who receive them.

Of the forty-nine petitioners who were interviewed in person or whose cases were documented by Human Rights Watch, eight had received a letter from a national office directing local officials to take care of their cases.42 Only one of those had been able to resolve his case as a result of the letter, and then only after he and a group of his neighbors physically threatened the local official with violence if he did not resolve the case.43 One petitioner described the response he got from a local official in Shanxi:

I gave them the letter, and the official laughed at me and threw it right into the garbage. I said, ‘How can you throw that in the garbage?’ He said, ‘What does this have to do with us? We don’t care.’44

Another said that when he presented his letter from the national petitions office to the head of the provincial police bureau, the response was equally dismissive:

The letter said, ‘Only the provincial Public Security office can handle this case. It is a case of retaliation. Please take it over.’ The province sent the letter to the city. After over twenty days, I got a letter and I went to the city police.

[The police officer] said to me, ‘We’ve handled this matter plenty already. We’ve seen a lot of these letters. They’re all just wasted paper, no use.’ He said, ‘You can go wherever you want, take the case up with anyone you want. Go to the U.N. if you want!… Eventually, we’ll come and arrest you.’45

In an effort to get local officials to respect the orders of the national offices, some petitioners who have had their letters scoffed at continue to return to Beijing to petition for many years. A Human Rights Watch researcher congratulated Mao on receiving a letter from the national Supreme People’s Court. He responded angrily:

I have over twenty of those letters! I have over twenty letters from the Supreme People’s Court, and they all say the same thing….I asked the head of the Court petitions office, ‘What use are your letters?…He said to me directly, ‘They’re no use.’ So now they have stopped giving me letters.46

Why do Petitioners Persist?

For non-Chinese observers, perhaps the most puzzling feature of China’s petitioning system is the fact that so many people participate in it at all, especially those who spend much of their lives pursuing hopeless appeals in the face of serious risks. The reasons for this persistence vary, and can include a range of cultural, psychological, and pragmatic factors.

A small number of petitioners almost certainly suffer from grave psychological illnesses; a petitions office official in Beijing told one reporter that he estimated 3 percent of petitioners were “psychologically chaotic.”47 For others, economic motivations drive them on: these petitioners believe that a decision in their favor will lead to a sizeable cash settlement that will compensate them for their effort.48

But a much larger proportion of petitioners appear to be simply driven by the desire to obtain justice and vindicate their human dignity, and may well spend years of their lives trapped in the petitioning system in the belief that a decision in their favor will justify the time spent in the effort. This is not unique to China: individuals pursuing apparently lost causes are a not uncommon feature of any court system. Some such cases are described in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, which depicts Victorian-era plaintiffs driven into poverty and madness over decades spent pursuing their hopeless lawsuits. Contemporary parallels exist in many countries: a U.S. reporter writing about long-term appellants for alimony in New York City observes, “In their seemingly endless court battles, litigants on both sides often become overwhelmed, depressed, or if they are going to become at all successful, obsessed.”49

Lawsuits against government or the ruling party filed in an independent court system, however, have a chance of winning. But the odds are stacked against petitioners, no matter how persistent they may be. How do petitioners become obsessed? There are numerous cultural factors that can help to explain this process. Many long-term petitioners who spoke to Human Rights Watch were rural people who turned to petitioning because they had few or no other options. Notes one Chinese lawyer, “Farmers might not have any education or understand anything about the legal system. They just know this: they can petition.”50

Many petitioners who continue over the long term also have a deep-rooted faith in the Communist Party, and believe that a rational explanation of their case will receive a fair hearing, if they can only find an official highly-placed enough to be truly objective about their personal situations. Some of these petitioners described themselves as engaging in a test of their own faith in the Chinese Communist party.

But while these rural petitioners may see themselves as Communists, their beliefs about the benevolence of officials in fact hews more closely to China’s Confucian traditions. Confucianism emphasizes the obligation of higher-status people to behave with benevolence toward powerless, lower-status people. Thus many rural petitioners will thrust their case portfolios at any Beijing passerby who appears higher-placed than themselves in the class hierarchy, whether that person is a Chinese official, a journalist, or a foreign visitor.

Status and reputation or “face” are also important motivations for farmers from the Confucian-influenced countryside. Some petitioners may have spent so much of their own and their families’ savings that to return home without success would be an intolerable humiliation, more painful even than a life spent living from scraps in Beijing.

However, along with the many and debatable cultural reasons for petitioning, there is also a more clear-cut one that is documented by this report: a few petitioners told Human Rights Watch they could not give up and return home because they believed they would face retaliation there. There literally is nowhere else for these petitioners to go: China’s restrictive hukou or household registration system makes it nearly impossible for most Chinese families to move to a new town, stay with relatives and find new jobs, and start their lives over.51 In some cases, the petitioners’ village in Beijing has become a de facto internal refugee camp for villagers fleeing official violence.52

Petitioning and Activism

The answers to Professor Yu’s survey were revealing. Only 5.8 percent responded that they would give up petitioning. Over 91 percent responded that they would never give up even if they saw no results. The survey also shows that experienced petitioners often become organizers: 85.5 percent responded that they would begin “publicizing (xuanchuan) government policies and laws to move/inspire (fadong) the masses to protect their own rights,” 68.2 percent responded that they would set up an organization to legally protect the rights of farmers (chengli zuzhi, yifa weihu nonngmin de hefa quanyi), and 70.2 percent responded that they would “organize the masses to open a dialogue and speak directly to the government” (zhijie zhao zhengfu duihua, tanpan). The survey also pointed out that many petitioners are willing to go beyond organizing: 53.6 percent responded that they would “do something to scare the cadres a little” and 87.3 percent responded that they were in a life or death struggle with corrupt cadres––translated literally, the expression used was that the “net will rip or the fish will die” [鱼死网破].

Recent Reforms

In response to the study by Professor Yu of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences detailing problems with the petitioning system and subsequent press coverage, in May 2004 the government opened a high-level discussion of problems in the petitioning system.53 In January 2005, the State Council passed a revised version of the national Regulations on Letters and Visits, which came into effect in May 2005.

Shortly thereafter, the government launched a national campaign to address police abuse, and reported by the end of May that police bureaus had heard over 47,000 petitions on the subject and had already “solved completely” 7,695 of these.54 There was no definition of the term “solved completely” and whether this meant the problem had been solved to the petitioners’ satisfaction or that the case file had simply been closed. By late July, public security bureaus had received 140,000 petitions, and reported that 104,439 of them had been “successfully solved.”55 Again, there was no definition of the term “successfully resolved.”

May 1, 2005 Regulations

In January 2005, the State Council promulgated a revised edition of the original Regulations on Letters and Visits.56 The new regulations came into effect on May 1, 2005, and superseded the 1995 regulations.57 They state that they are “formulated for the purposes of enhancing relations between the people’s governments at all levels and the people, protecting the lawful rights and interests of letter-writers and visitors, and maintaining a good order in letter-writing and visiting.”58 

Much of the language in the May 2005 regulations concerns the duties of petition officials in transferring petitions to the correct department, receiving petitions from other departments and explaining to petitioners that they ought to present their petitions to the appropriate department. The regulations include more specific time limits on the processing of petitions.

They also include more specific rules on the behavior of petitioners. To stop them from jumping around the system, petitioners are allowed to write letters or visit petitioning bureaus only at the relevant level or the next higher level.59 Petitioners are also allowed just two appeals to higher bodies, after which their petitions are no longer to be accepted if the ensuing petitions are based on “the same facts and reasons.”60 State organs are instructed to reject petitions which have been accepted or are currently being handled by other, lower level organs.61 As in the 1995 regulations, the 2005 revision states that petitions that are being or will be “handled according to law through litigation, arbitration, administrative reconsideration or other statutory means” ought to be transferred to the relevant organs, but it is not clear what the “relevant” organ is.62

To address weaknesses in the system, the revised regulations state that one can receive administrative sanctions for “shifting responsibility onto another organ, taking a perfunctory attitude or delaying handling” of petitions.63 However, the 1995 regulations used almost exactly the same language and the practice nevertheless persisted, making it unclear why petitioners should expect a different outcome under the new regulations.64

While both the 1995 and the 2005 regulations state that “no organization or individual” may retaliate against petitioners, the new regulations are somewhat stricter. The 1995 version, while prohibiting the “suppression” or “persecution” of petitioners, did not specify what if any actions could be taken against those who broke the regulation.65 The newer regulations state:

Whoever retaliates against a letter-writer or visitor, thus constituting a crime, should be investigated for criminal liability according to the regulation; if the act is not severe enough to constitute a crime, he should be given an administrative or disciplinary sanction according to the regulation.66

The 2005 regulations also include possible sanctions or punishment against officials who overstep or abuse power, do nothing, refuse to execute decisions,67 refuse to accept petitions “which fall within the scope of [the office’s] statutory functions and powers, fail to inform petitioners of the status of their inquiry within given time limits,68 fail to support the request which is based on clear facts and conform to relevant laws, regulations, rules and other provisions, or are rude in their style of work.69

At the same time, the new regulations add several articles restricting activism by petitioners. Petitioners “shall not harm the interests of the State, society or the collective, infringe upon the lawful rights of other citizens” or “stay and make trouble at the reception place for letters and visits.”70 Furthermore, the 2005 regulations state in two separate articles that petitioners may not engage in illegal assembly.71 It is also now explicitly illegal to “incite, collude with, coerce or entice with money or things of value others to write letters or make visits.”72 While the regulations allow collective complaints, it is unclear whether this provision is an attempt to undermine this right or to create a trap door for unpopular group complainants. It should be clarified.

Another problem with the regulations is that they do not state that their purpose is to ensure the impartial treatment of cases and petitioners. This is particularly important in a system in which there is often little separation between the ruling party and the government. The regulations do not address conflicts of interest inherent in the Chinese administrative system and fail to clarify which body is responsible for enforcing decisions. 

National regulations often differ slightly from provincial and local petition regulations. For example, the Beijing Municipal Regulations on Letters and Visits states that those who “continue without reason” to petition should be prevented from “pestering” the office,73 though it is unclear which steps should be taken to do so. Although group petitioning is recognized, if a group of petitioners refuses to elect five representatives as required by the regulation and continues to petition en masse, the petitions office may call the work unit to which the petitioners belong and request that they come to take the petitioners back. This provides a legal justification for the “retrievers.”74

Case Study: “I’ll stop petitioning when I die”

Mr. Jiang, a short but muscular Shanxi farmer, enters the room on crutches, moving slowly, his left leg hanging limp. His petite and round-faced wife assists with his crutches as he sits down. They shyly wait to speak, sitting a bit back from the group. After another petitioner describes a reeducation through labor camp, Mr. Jiang interjects, “We also went to reeducation through labor––both of us.”

Mr. and Mrs. Jiang’s saga began when they alleged that officials in their village stole 540,000 RMB [U.S.$66,000] through graft. Mr. Jiang told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

At 8:00 p.m. on the evening of December 30, the electric and phone lines in my house were cut. The village deputy [Communist] Party secretary brought the [thugs] on his motorcycle to my house. The vice secretary was just waiting outside on the motorcycle until the men beat me to a pulp to take him home. He [the vice secretary] gave the men 10,000 yuan [U.S.$1,200] to beat me to death. The village deputy secretary paid him to kill me. They organized it that day over lunch.

[The thugs] came into my home and hit me in the leg with a metal pipe, about this thick [16 cm]. The first blow they struck broke my leg. They tried to hit me [in the head] again and missed, but they hit me on the shoulder. Then he thought I was dead, but I wasn’t dead. I grabbed his legs, he fell over and my wife jumped on top of him. So they ran away.

“I was protecting him,” said Mrs. Jiang, smiling. 

As a result of the attack, Mr. Jiang lost the use of his left leg. He filed complaints against ten men, including the deputy secretary. Four men were charged and convicted for conspiracy and for the assault, but their sentences were not carried out:

It was a phony sentence. They gave me the paper and everything, but it was all fake. There was a trial, and I saw them take [the village Party deputy secretary] away. But they just sent the village Party secretary and the deputy secretary to another village. They have the same jobs. They’re still in power!

The Jiangs made their first trip to Beijing in 1998. In January 2003, Mr. Jiang was seized byShanxi police, who took him forcibly back to Shanxi. They handcuffed him for thirty-one hours straight while they were bringing him back, and held him for twenty days in a detention center before sentencing him to two years in a reeducation through labor camp.  Asked if inmates got Sundays off to rest, Mr. Jiang exclaims:

Sunday? What Sunday?! There are no Sundays in labor camp! Don’t even ask – they made you work every day. Sometimes we had to work through the night if there was a lot of work.

While her husband was in the labor camp, Mrs. Jiang continued to petition on his behalf in Beijing, raising concerns about his detention as well as about the original assassination attempt. Shanxi police seized her in Beijing in August 2003 and took her back to Shanxi, where she was sentenced to a year in a women’s reeducation through labor camp. She explains:

They came to Beijing just to find me. They took me to the police lock-up for fourteen days. Then I went to the reeducation through labor camp. I cooked and made beds for the other women. I was only twenty kilometers away from my husband, but I wasn’t allowed to see him.

They hit women in there. They’d hit us and wait for us to recover, and just hit us again. 

When I got out, I couldn’t come back to Beijing because my husband was sick [after his time in detention]. But as soon as he got out of the hospital, I came back to Beijing. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jiang have eight children: two are grown up, and the others range in age from six to sixteen. On their first trips to petition in Beijing, they brought their children along. Then local authorities took custody of the children, and now keep them in the village, charging Mr. and Mrs. Jiang fees to pay for a caretaker. Mr. Jiang says:

They’re keeping our kids, they’re controlling them. We’re allowed to see them, but we can’t take them away.

The authorities still want to reeducate me. They say, ‘if you do this again, if you complain again, we’ll reeducate you again.’ But how can I not complain? I’ll stop petitioning when I die, but I’m not dead yet.75

[22] For more on petitioning and related subjects, see, for example, Carl F. Minzner, “Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System,” Stanford Journal of International Law, vol. 42:1 (2006), (publication pending); See also Liao Yiwu, Zhongguo shangfang cun (“Shantytown for Supplicants: Reports on China's Victims of Injustices”), (Hong Kong: Mirror Books, 2005); as well as Chen Guidi and Chun Tao, An Investigation of China’s Peasantry (Zhongguo Nongmin Diaocha) [People’s Culture Press (Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe), 2004]; See also Kevin O’Brien, “The Politics of Lodging Complaints in Rural China,” China Quarterly (1995),,k/CQ1995.pdf, as well as O’Brien’s work on popular protest ,of which petitioning is a part, at,k/.

[23] Jonathan K. Ocko, “I’ll take it all the way to Beijing: Capital appeals in the Qing,” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 47.2 (May 1988), p. 294.

[24] Carl F. Minzner, “Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System,” Stanford Journal of International Law, vol. 42:1 (2006), (publication pending).

[25] Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Annual Report 2004 of the One Hundred Eighth Congress, Second Session”, October 5, 2004 [online], (retrieved November 24, 2005), p 72.

[26] Laura Luehrmann, “Facing Citizen Complaints in China, 1951-1996," Asian Survey, vol. 43:5 (October 2003), p. 849.

[27] Article 6, Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli]. Official English translation. State Council Order No. 431. Adopted January 5, 2005, effective May 1, 2005. Beijing: China Legal Publishing House, 2005)

[28] Ibid.

[29] Minzner, “Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System,” Stanford Journal of International Law, (publication pending).

[30] Article 21(1), Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[31] Ibid., Article 21(4).

[32] Ibid., Article 31.

[33] Ibid., Article 26.

[34] Ibid., Article 33.

[35] Minzner, “Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System,” Stanford Journal of International Law, (publication pending); Nanping Liu, “A Vulnerable Justice: Finality of Civil Judgments in China,” Journal of Asian Law, vol. 13 (1999), p. 35-98.

[36] Contact information for the Central Government and Beijing City Xinfang Bureaus retrieved on November 9, 2004 from, as quoted in Minzner’s “Xinfang: An Alternative to the Formal Chinese Legal System,” Stanford Journal of International Law, (publication pending).

[37] Jianrong, "Xinfang Zhidu Pipan (Critique of the Petition System)."

[38] Article 18, Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with Bai, Beijing, 2005.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhou, Beijing, 2005.

[42] Human Rights Watch interviews with Qi, Mao, Ming, Kang, Qing, and Ou, Beijing, 2005; documents gathered from Yuan and Tang, Beijing 2004.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview with Cai, Beijing, 2005.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with Cai, Beijing, 2005.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Ming, Beijing, 2005.

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with Mao, Beijing, 2005.

[47] Hu Feng and Jiang Shu, “Xinfang gongpeng [The pinnacle of petitioning],” Oriental Outlook, December 11, 2003, pp. 30-35; p. 31.

[48] Human Rights Watch interviews with Qing, Pei, Beijing, 2005.

[49] Leslie Eaton, “Coping: Up the courthouse steps, and still climbing,” New York Times, August 14, 2005, Section 14, page 1.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhou, Chinese lawyer, Beijing, 2005.

[51] Recent limited reforms of the household registration system (hukou) have eliminated certain classifications of laborers. These changes will apply largely to migrant workers, and are unlikely to affect the majority of petitioners.

[52] Jianrong, "Xinfang Zhidu Pipan (Critique of the Petition System).

[53] “Quanguo xinfang gongzuo zuotanhui zai jing zhaokai, wang gang, hua jianmin jianghua (National Letters and Visits Work Discussion Session Opens in Beijing)”, Xinhua News Agency, May 13, 2004 [online], (retrieved November 26, 2005).

[54] “Chinese police heard 47,711 petitioners in 11 days”, People’s Daily Online, May 31, 2005 [online], (retrieved November 24, 2005).

[55] “Police heads ordered to well handle petitioners”, People’s Daily Online, July 23, 3005 [online], (retrieved November 24, 2005).

[56] Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli]. Official English translation. State Council Order No. 431. Adopted January 5, 2005, effective May 1, 2005. Beijing: China Legal Publishing House, 2005)

[57] Regulations on Handling Complaints, 1995 [Xinfang tiaoli]. State Council Decree No. 185. Promulgated on October 30, 1995, [online] (retrieved November 24, 2005).

[58] Article 1, Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[59] Ibid., Article 16.

[60]Ibid., Articles 34 and 35.

[61] Ibid., Article 16.

[62] Ibid., Article 14.

[63] Ibid., Article 43(1).

[64] Regulations on Handling Complaints, 1995 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[65] Ibid.

[66] Article 46, Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli]. Interestingly, petitioners who do an especially outstanding job of petitioning and thereby make “contributions to the national economic and social development, to the improvement of the work of State organs and the protection of public interests” can receive an award. (Article 8, Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[67] Articles 40(1), 40(2), and 40(3), Regulations on Letters and Visits, 2005 [Xinfang tiaoli].

[68] Ibid., Articles 42(2) and 42(3).

[69] Ibid., Articles 43 and 44.

[70] Ibid., Article 20.

[71] Ibid., Articles 20 and 47.

[72] Ibid., Article 20.

[73]  Article 24, Beijing Municipal Regulations on Letters and Visits. Promulgated on September 8, 1994, [online] (retrieved November 24, 2005).

[74] Article 25, Beijing Municipal Regulations on Letters and Visits.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with Mr. and Mrs. Jiang, Beijing, 2005.

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