Appeals in China Increase 500-Fold in Last 20 Years

By Zhang Guanghua, Voice of America
September 25, 2005 12:00 am Last Updated: August 21, 2015 6:55 pm

BEIJING – The “Regulation on Letters and Visits” released by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China allows people to directly express their opinions to the government. However, many of those who went to Beijing to share their views, not only were coldly received, but sometimes would be sent back after enduring such extremes as beatings and imprisonment. This leads people who appeal to believe that there is no place to voice their complaints.

According to the State Council’s “Regulation on Letters and Visits”, the public security and the legal systems must have an “open door” policy, and receive tens of thousands of people who may come to seek help.

In the past 20 years, the cases of mail-in and drop-in appeals handled by the Chinese court receptionists have increased 500-fold.

China’s State Bureau for Letters and Calls also admits that the trend of total mail-in’s and visits is rapidly increasing. Moreover, over 80 percent of the subjects submitted are reasonable or with actual difficulties that should be solved.

According to a research conducted in 2004, the ratio of the solved problems to the total amount of appeals was only 2 out of 1000.

Appeals System Cannot Replace Judicial System

Some experts believe that the appeal system is a major characteristic of Chinese administration. It cannot completely replace the legal system. Additionally, other scholars believe that the appeals system will never be able to replace the administrative system.

Only when the administrative organs carry out their duties and practice according to public service laws can disputes be fundamentally resolved.

A researcher of social problems in Beijing pointed out that the appeal system is not only incapable of solving people’s problems, but it can also generate more problems and complications. This is because many issues involve the legal and administrative departments, and thus must be solved through normal legal procedures.

More Power than the Law, the Law Has No Dignity

A laid-off person, who came to Beijing with an appeal, said that he had already been through a court of law regarding a housing contract dispute.

He said that, because of the intervention by the chief judge, the original judge’s decision that had won him his lawsuit was reversed later.

He said that, in China, the administration or the Communist Party’s political authority has more power than the law. The wishes of one person can be superior to the judicial system itself. He also pointed out that the judge that had awarded him the win explained that the chief judge was the leader, and that he [the judge] must obey.

This appealing person said, “His original words were, ‘This is a very clear matter. Originally, the decision was awarded to you, I support you. However, the chief won’t let it be. As an ordinary judge, I must obey. There is nothing I can do. Personally, I support you. You can also appeal; you may have a chance if you appeal.'”

Because the person appealing was laid-off for many years without salary and had appealed many times to the city committee, they closed the doors on him as well as gave him a beating.

Disorganized Appeal System with Limited Coordination

Chinese appeal organs are numerous and disorganized. Internal communication and coordination is very limited and ineffective.

Without adequate monitoring of all levels of the appeal organs, appeals cases are being transferred along the chain, which creates a constant increase in letters and visits All sorts of issues are then transferred to the central government from all areas; however the central government has no means to solve them. This creates even more problems and malpractices.

The issue of how to promptly assist and process the appeals fairly is a huge challenge and a significant reform the Chinese government will face.