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China to crack down on illegal imprisonment of petitioners

Published on Mar 19, 2014 9:10 PM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese officials must not illegally imprison people seeking justice through petitions, a top central government body said on Wednesday, casting a spotlight on the country's widespread network of black jails.

The system of petitions dates back to imperial times as a means for citizens to bring grievances to the attention of government officials.

In practice, few of the cases are ever resolved and petitioners are frequently forced home or imprisoned by local or provincial authorities when they seek to escalate their complaints to higher-level officials.

Government agencies must "resolutely avoid blocking the people from normal petitioning by any means," the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee and the State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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