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Petitions and Petition System —— Analysis on Farmers’ Petitions Addressed to the Government


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

Farmers’ petitions give a concentrated expression to various conflicts in rural areas, posing a great challenge to some local governments. The petition system through letters and visits should be adjusted according to the notable problems related to petitions. 1. Petitioners: elites are found among petitioners. There are several characteristics including the following aspects. In respect of demography, petitioners are mainly middle-aged male farmers. In respect of scale change, compared with the same period of last year, the number of petitioners increased massively in the first half of 1999 and declined dramatically in the second half. In respect of regional distribution, petitioners come from various regions. In respect of occupational constitution, common farmers comprise the majority of petitioners. In respect of individual performance, more and more elites begin to express their views through petitions and this fact is noteworthy. 2. Petition demands: group expressions of interests. Two features are prominent. a. Main content of petitions. The problems that farmers have expressed in their petitions involve different issues of rural life. Among them, many issues are related to farmers’ living burdens, farmland disputes and even corruption cases. b. Organizational forms of petitions. Viewing from petitioners’ appeals of interests, there are different types of petitions addressed respectively by individuals, representatives and groups. 3. Petition process through rational appealing. This can be seen in petitioners’ meticulous preparations such as how they come to Beijing, and in what way they can better address their petitions. 4. The increased number of petitions are due to accumulated conflicts and factors relating to petition departments and judicial departments as well as media on whom the petitioners have places too much hope and expectations. 5. Farmers’ petitions: views and suggestions. People should hold a positive understanding towards petitions and strengthen the construction of petition system.

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