Senior officials have been asked to meet with petitioners about their complaints to help reduce social disputes and unrest.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council have jointly published three documents that urge top officials at all levels of government to regularly receive visitors with complaints in a bid to resolve disputes.
"It is important to have Party and government chiefs show up to deal with social disputes, because they have a most comprehensive understanding of local situation and are in the most powerful position to make solutions to the complaints," said Li Chengyan, head of Peking University's Clean Government Research Center.
"Without the senior officials making final decisions some disputes will never be solved."
In recent years, China has witnessed a series of violent protests, mostly as a result of local officials' ignorance and mishandling of complaints, he said.
He said this forced many people to travel to Beijing to appeal to the central government when the complaint should have been dealt with at a local level.
Li also said there should be more supervision of local officials to curb corruption.
Ren Jin, a professor with the National School of Administration, said the new policy should be made a law.
The three new policy papers are titled Comments on the Regular Reception of the Masses by Leading Officials, Comments on the Regular Organization of Officials from Central Departments to Visit Localities, and Comments on the Systematization of the Efforts to Sort out, Check and Resolve Contradictions and Disputes.
They urge leading Party and government officials at the municipal level to arrange one day each quarter to receive petitioners, and Party secretaries and government chiefs at county-level are asked to set aside one day per month.
Visiting days should be increased in areas with more complaints, the documents said.
In addition, local governments should publicize the names, positions, and business scope of officials to hear complaints, as well as the time and location of the receptions.
Officials will be sent to local governments to help with the implementation of the policies, assess public opinion, supervise the resolution of outstanding problems, and promote social harmony, according to the documents.
(China Daily April 16, 2009)