LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – It’s time for an upgrade to China’s decades-old petitioning system. According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China’s website, the State Bureau of Letters and Calls announced new reform measures that would be put into effect following the investigation of deputy director Xu Jie for “serious violations of laws and discipline.” Although the media has not received details behind Xu’s probe, some have said it may be due to alleged bribing by local officials who wanted him to cover up undesirable comments.

In 2005, a State Council regulation ruled that government employees who neglected petitions or complaints from citizens would see it negatively affect their performance record.  Professor Yu Jianrong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences commented on his micro blog, “Petition-handling has become one of the most serious fields in terms of corruption…Some local officials have to bribe their peers at petition-handling departments to reduce the number of petitioners recorded in the computer system.”

The reform measures will enable more people to make use of an Internet-based service aimed at improving productivity and assisting petitioners. Another deputy director of the bureau, Li Gao, remarked that “The operation of the online platform has been smooth, and we will guide the public to use the Internet more often to lodge complaints.” Li added that the government hopes to defend the public’s ability to voice issues, with the bureau prohibiting anything that holds someone back from petitioning and protecting them from retaliation.

Of course these reforms can only be effective if those running the new services cannot be bought as well.