Tackling public complaints head-on
  ·  2023-06-26  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

This aerial photo taken on March 14 shows a view of Cuihu lake in Pujiang County of Jinhua, east China's Zhejiang Province (XINHUA) 

Highway S210 runs through Pujiang County in east China's Zhejiang Province. However, among the locals, this provincial highway is often referred to as "Jinping Road," named after Chinese President Xi Jinping.

First built in the 1950s, the Pujiang section of the highway was a rugged and dusty road in dire need of repair 20 years ago. The road had been a source of significant traffic safety concerns, causing numerous inconveniences for local residents and impeding the economic development of the mountainous areas.

Changes came in 2003 when Xi, then Party chief of Zhejiang, led over 100 officials to Pujiang to hear public complaints and solve the people's problems. Xi's visit was part of his reform plan to innovate the handling of public complaints by encouraging officials to reach out to the people and address their concerns.

The issue of the rugged road was raised by Jiang Xingjian, who was a wood processing factory owner. Jiang remembered the details of his conversation with Xi that day in the makeshift reception room at a middle school classroom.

Recalling the meeting, Jiang said Xi shook hands with him, and his amiable demeanor put Jiang at ease.

As Jiang spoke, Xi carefully listened and checked the routes on a map, while seeking solutions from a transport official in the room.

"This is a road that will bring prosperity to local people, and it must be built well," Xi said on the spot and set a specific date to start the project.

"Xi is such a man of action, and our lives have become much more convenient after the road was repaired," Jiang said.

After the renovation, a section of 13-kilometer treacherous mountain road has now become a two-way highway of about 6 kilometers with four lanes, shortening the travel time of local people.

Jiang was not the only local to have their problems solved that day. The group of more than 100 officials led by Xi received complaints from 667 people and solved 91 problems on the site, said Zhang Xi, then a provincial official who accompanied Xi during the visit.

With more people filing their complaints, many more pressing issues emerged. When raising concerns about the relocation problems in an urban renovation program, five local residents argued with local officials. Xi patiently listened to the opinions of both sides and spoke to them in a friendly manner, Zhang recalled.

"We are satisfied with Xi's response. As long as the government listens to our voices and provides fair and just relocation, we will support the renovation," one of the residents said.

After Pujiang, Xi made it a yearly practice to visit regions with frequent public petitions during his tenure in Zhejiang, in order to gain insights into the concerns and thoughts of the people and address them directly. A new practice of provincial-level leaders reaching out to the people was established.

Pujiang saw 10,307 cases of public complaints in 2002, and the number decreased to 640 in 2016.

Thanks to Xi's initiative, the system of officials at various local levels visiting petitioners was significantly improved in Zhejiang. Regulations on petitions in the form of letters and visits were revised, and assessment methods for local petition work were formulated.

Efforts should be made to adopt diversified methods to prevent, mediate, and resolve social disputes, for example, through a mechanism where people can file their complaints and Party members and officials can reach out to them more effectively, said Xi, as the country's top leader, while inspecting Zhejiang in 2020.



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