When Chinese peasants try to sue the state….

…they usually can’t even get their cases acknolwedged. In fact, they can’t even get their cases formally rejected, because that would give them grounds for appeal. Joseph Kahn brings us yet another uplifting story on China’s legal system.

No, no, the clerk said, shaking his head and waving his hands, as the peasants recalled it. They were wasting his time and theirs. But as they withdrew, their legal papers remained on his desk in plain sight. Maybe, the peasants hoped, that meant the clerk had tacitly accepted their application to sue.

“In two years of trying every option under the law, this was a moment of optimism,” said Li Huitang, a leader of peasant resistance in Shiqiao, a village in Hebei Province, in northern China. “We hoped he might rule on our request.”

Even a written rejection would have been a bonanza, enabling them to appeal to a higher court. But it was not to be. The clerk soon called Mr. Li’s home, ordering him to retrieve the documents. When Mr. Li declined, the clerk mailed them back in a plain manila envelope, unmarked, unprocessed and officially ignored.

China’s legal system often hands down verdicts that the powerless consider unfair. But a bigger problem is that courts often refuse to issue any verdict at all – or even acknowledge that some bothersome legal complaints exist.

The English translation is simply “put on the record” or “register a case,” but in China “li’an” is so fraught with official meddling that for many with complaints against the government, the judicial system is closed for business.

Another long, torturous article about the misery of the disenfranchised peasant and the “every-man-for-himself” mentality that has turned China into a hellhole for those lacking clout. If you’re looking for something to fume about for the rest of the night, read it all.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

Interesting. I’m not sure that you can say much about those kinds of articles – they speak for themselves.

The NY Times pieces certainly do provide some interesting pieces on China’s legal system.

December 28, 2005 @ 4:45 am | Comment

I second Raj, the series is very well worth a read if you are interested in Rule of Law in China.

December 30, 2005 @ 6:50 am | Comment

OK, now try slapping a malpractic suit on your local HMO

January 2, 2006 @ 2:49 am | Comment

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