[JURIST] The Chinese government has banned people from traveling to the capital of Beijing to file legal complaints. The ban [BBC report], issued Tuesday, prevents the common practice in which petitioners travel to the capital to seek redress for a variety of legal problems. Under the new regulations, Chinese authorities will send representatives [China Daily report] to provinces that produce many petitioners, and petitioners will also be able to file complaints online. Chinese authorities said that anyone using the appeals process to make financial gain, damage social order, or incite mass incidents would be punished [Xinhua report]. Tuesday's ban comes as Chinese officials called this week for judicial reforms to improve the country's legal system and speed up delays [CCTV reports] in the court system.
Many human rights activists fear that a ban on traveling to Beijing to file petitions is the latest in a series of moves designed to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches this October. Earlier this week, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong was charged with tax evasion after officials shut down [JURIST reports] the legal research center of his Gongmeng human rights group. Last month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers [press release, in Chinese] in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register. In June, Chinese authorities charged prominent rights activist Liu Xiaobo [JURIST report] with "inciting subversion of state power" [PRC Criminal Law article 105, PDF]. Liu, who spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule, and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country.