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China Digitizes Citizen Complaints: Please Sign In

FILE - A woman shows petitioning papers bearing petitioners' thumbprints to Reuters journalists near the State Bureau For Petitions and Visits, which handles applications from petitioners from all over China.
China says it is pushing its citizen petitions into the digital age following widespread complaints about the complaint system.

At a news conference in Beijing Thursday, Li Gao, Deputy Director of China's Bureau of Petitions, said the government is encouraging people to use a recently launched online system to help make the entire process more efficient and transparent.

"The public will be able to post their complaints online, that will facilitate any queries and the follow up to their complaints," he said. "They will be able to monitor and evaluate the whole process on how their petition is handled. This will improve credibility, and build a 'bright' system of petitioning."

In addition to launching the online petition system this year, officials say Beijing will also stop ranking local jurisdictions by the number of petitions filed. Critics say the rankings give cities and provinces an incentive to suppress complaints. Officials say they will also try to divert more cases to the courts for litigation.

Activist Huang Qi, who runs a website that tracks complaints from across the country, says the issue of grievances should be of immediate concern to the government.

"Ever since [President] Xi [Jinping] came to power, I have believed the thing he has to do is solve numerous wrongful cases across the country," he said. "Otherwise, the anger among the people in China will be pushed to the edge of explosion."

China's civil petition system, which takes in millions of complaints every year, is routinely criticized as being inefficient and corrupt. Many go to Beijing to protest to the national government every year when local authorities ignore their grievances.

As officials were holding their press conference in Beijing Thursday, a small group of protesters gathered outside with banners and signs detailing their complaints. Plain clothed officers were seen moving through the crowd and confiscating the banners and signs.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.