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China’s grievance procedures leave a little to be desired

From our China editor, Paul French, in Shanghai:

A story is flying round the Chinese internet igniting anger with officials and the grievance system in China, known as “petitioning” where, supposedly, anyone can take a grievance to higher authorities and get a hearing. The Petition System is often the last possible route to resolution of a problem most citizens have after being
ignored by local officials.

Here’s what happened. Chen Yulian, a housewife living in the city of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, went to see high up officials pending a medical malpractice dispute that left her daughter dead.

For her trouble Mrs Chen was beaten up for 15 minutes and then detained by the police. Her beating left her hardly able to walk apparently.

A not unusual reaction by police to petitioners in inland China. Only there was a catch – Mrs Chen’s husband, unbeknown to the cops, happened to be the Communist Party official in charge of the local petitioning office. Mrs Chen had gone on her own so as not to be seen to be abusing her husband’s official position.

The police response? – an apology, but rather severely qualified “We didn’t mean to beat the wife of a big boss.”

Naturally this has the China blogosphere all commenting – a typical comment being, “Does this mean the police are not supposed to beat leaders’ wives, but the ordinary people can be battered?”

Three Chinese police officers that beat up Mrs Chen have been disciplined but many are asking, had she not been the wife of a “Big Boss” would anyone have cared?

More on the story here.

There’s clearly one rule for the “big bosses” another for the little folk – when your Chinese partner tells you not to worry about a problem with someone complaining you now know what can happen to them.

Paul’s latest column on shifting legal goalposts in China is here.

His archive of columns and articles for Ethical Corporation is here.

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