Beijing Moves to End Tradition of Petitions as 60th Anniversary Nears

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Authorities in China are moving to snuff out petitioning, a centuries-old form of protest that brings thousands of aggrieved people to the capital each year seeking justice.

The new rules come as authorities are seeking to keep a lid on protests ahead of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China in October. One official from the legislative affairs committee said recently that an "improvement" of the petitioning situation was needed to ensure "a harmonious and stable social environment for the celebratory events of the 60th anniversary of new China."

The regulations haven't been published, but the party's Political and Legislative Affairs Committee posted a notice on its Web site Wednesday giving details: Petitioners should "not seek solutions by visiting Beijing"; instead, they should seek redress locally, and if the case is rejected then central authorities may initiate a review. But bringing cases directly to the capital, the notice implied, would be considered illegal.

"No illegal petitioning is allowed, whether the cases are reasonable or not," the notice said, adding that people who represent or instigate others to appeal will get "criticism and education."

The new rules could end a form of protest with a long history in China. In imperial times, people with wrongs sought redress at the emperor's court, and Chinese history books are filled with stories of upright Confucian officials traveling thousands of miles to the capital hoping to have unjust opinions overturned.

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