August 23, 2008
The July 15, 2008 issue of the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) (No. 20/297) has several articles on petitioning, including a good one on "petition cut-off economics" (截访经济) described by Michael Anti as follows:
[It] depicts how local governments hire some "Petition Cut-off Agents" in Beijing, who help to persuade the petitioners in front of the central ministries to go back home and try to reduce the "petition figures" in the National Petition Ranking System for his province or city. In this ranking system, if a province or city's score gets a rise, it will be regarded as a failed political governing, where the top officials would get fewer chances of promotion.
So local governments just send those paid agents to Beijing, to cut off the petitioners from their places. Cut-off may mean persuasion, coercion, cheat or just kidnap. Sometime they need to pretend to be a central official to convince the petitioners, so many of them could speak very good Mandarin. It is a serious job. Even in a remote, poor and tiny county in Shaanxi Province, these petition cut-off payment in 2007 was totally RMB 150000. This economy has a volumn of billions. A cut-off agent even becomes friend of top officials in his province, for their political careers are just on his hand.
The main article is entitled 大陆“截访”链条调查 (sorry, it's not available on line), and there's another one by Yu Jianrong (于建嵘) entitled 谁在承受截访的成本? (Who Bears the Cost of Cutting Off Petitions?) that's available here.