05/17/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Petitioning the authorities made more difficult as petitioners continue to face arrests and threats

China’s Supreme People's Court issues new rules that make the petition process that much harder. In the meantime, arrests and threats against those who protest and demand justice continue. Ai Weiwei’s wife is allowed to see him after 42 days in detention without charges.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Supreme People's Court has issued new guidelines for petitions. For experts, the new rules restrict the right to plead for redress. In the meantime, the wife of artist Ai Weiwei was able to meet him for the first time since his arrest on 3 April.

The Supreme People's Court and higher courts receive an endless stream of complaints about court rulings, alleged corruption and bad government. According to one of its latest decisions, new procedures will allow a “sustainable system” to handle complaints.

Judges that cannot rule on a case immediately can set the date for a petitioner’s hearing. The latter will have to wait until then.

The possibility of “mediation” will also be available, including the use of legal aid, psychological consultation, and special social assistance fund.

Petitions are often the only “legal” remedy for ordinary people to complain injustice, by directly addressing the authorities, including those in the capital Beijing.

However, local authorities have often used illegal means to stop them, including the detention of petitioners in “black jails” without charges or trial.

Experts note that far from facilitating the process of petitioning, the new guidelines are designed to limit its impact whilst giving ordinary Chinese the false impression that their cases are being studied since many of the questions raised by petitions are not the purview of the courts but rather of the Communist Party leadership.

For Professor Xie Ming, of Renmin University, the authorities “have spent so much money on curbing petitions, but it hasn't been very effective.”

For others, if Beijing is serious about fighting corruption and fulfilling its promises, it should pay more attention to complaints about bad government.

Instead, since mid-February, China is experiencing its worst crackdown since 1998. Dozens of illegal arrests have been made and threats proffered against human rights activists in order to nip in the bud any Jasmine Revolution-styled protest.

Meanwhile, on 15 May Lu Qing met her husband, dissident artist Ai Weiwei (pictured), who has been in custody without charges and unable to see anyone, even his lawyer, for 42 days. Police took Lu to a secret location where they monitored their short 15-minute conversation.

Chinese law allows police to hold people for up to 30 days and prosecutors then have seven days to decide whether to approve formal arrest or release the suspect. Ai has been held now for 42 days without formal charges laid against him.

In addition to Ai, rights activists Wen Tao, Hu Mingfen, Liu Zhenggang and Zhang Jinsong have also been missing for weeks.

Petitioner Feng Dacheng was seized by police on 15 May for protesting against forced land seizures in his village in Guangxi Province.

Another petitioner, Guo Jinying, spent time in a ‘black jail’ after she was arrested in Beijing at the end of April. During her detention she was beaten and sexually assaulted and is now in hospital.

On 16 may in Harbin (Heilongjiang), police gave activist Zhao Jingzhou and Yu Yunfeng seven and ten days of administrative detention respectively for "disrupting public order” because they told others about their experience of being forcibly evicted from their homes.

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