Talking as we were the other week about the petitioning system in China, here's a, standout article on the system and what it does sometimes to the people who get caught up in it, based on the case of Zhang Yaodong:
Zhang, who was at a government petitioner's office in Beijing at the time, received a phone call from his older sister who said that the local court had promised to address his petition. He packed his bags and boarded a van back to his hometown in Pingdingshan Prefecture, Henan Province.
An hour later, Zhang's sister received a call from a petitioner in the same van, who told her that her brother had been beaten unconscious. Zhang's sister arrived in Beijing on the second day only to find her brother dead
Since this was just before the 18th Party Congress it was decreed impossible for Zhang to have been fatally beaten; his family were given just over 3 million yuan in compensation for his entirely unsuspicious death after consenting to this proposal.
Caixin managed to get this story out despite the fact that China ranks at 174th place in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom index, five places above Eritrea in bottom slot. This position may be something to do with the way the rankings are organized: things can get pretty rough in China, but I think it’s a bit much to assert that it has ‘been sucked into an insane spiral of terror’ as the article accompanying the rankings says. But what really strikes me is that the Caixin piece is better than nine tenths of the stuff got out by the British editors complaining about Leveson’s ‘threat’ to press freedom.