05/30/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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New law to ban protesters who threaten suicide

Amendments to Beijing's Petition Bylaw are intended to outlaw extreme actions taken to attract attention, too often the only means many have to highlight their plight.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Protesters may be banned from threatening to kill or harm themselves to attract attention to their grievances under draft changes to Beijing's Petition Bylaw.

The proposed amendments were drafted by the Legislation Department of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress to help stem the rising tide of appeals made in the capital. They will be considered in the near future by the Beijing Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee.

The amendments also include provisions to outlaw blocking traffic and gathering around government buildings.

Zhang Yin, deputy director of the Congress' Legislation Department, told the Beijing Star Daily there had been growing numbers of petitions lodged in the city in recent years with many people often taking extreme actions to attract attention to their cause.

Mr Zhang explained that most complaints are related to rural land requisition, demolition of urban residential units, labour relations and social security.

Xu Zhiyong, a law researcher at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said it was unreasonable to forbid people from threatening suicide or self-harm. Similarly, banning other behaviour was not needed since it is covered by existing legislation.

"People only kill themselves when they have no other way out. I have noticed more and more people turning to those extreme means, such as jumping from high buildings, jumping into rivers, besieging the state council or embassies, and usually they can get their problems addressed by the central government through these means," Dr Xu said.

"A ban would only have the opposite result—more people will make trouble. I think political reform is needed so governments become more democratic and fairer, otherwise the flood of petitions, especially to Beijing, will continue."

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