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Premier Drops By To Meet Petitioners

BEIJING - During a rare visit to China's top complaints-hearing department on Monday, Premier Wen Jiabao asked officials to address people's complaints and to create conditions for the public to criticize and supervise the government.

Braving the winter freeze, Wen visited the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the central-level department dealing with petitions, in south Beijing on Monday afternoon.

It was the first time a Chinese premier had held face-to-face meetings with petitioners in Beijing since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

During his visit, Wen said the government should expand channels for the public to make suggestions to and offer criticisms of the government.

 Various administrative procedures should be made public and all administrative behavior should be supervised to ensure administrative power is exercised transparently, he said.

Wen also said allowing officials to conduct face-to-face meetings with petitioners will help solve public complaints promptly and in a personal way.

He urged officials to keep in close contact with the public to ensure government work is consistent with people's needs.

In the bureau's lobby, people filling in petition forms and queuing to submit documents surrounded the premier.

Wen shook hands with each of them and asked them about their complaints and where they had come from. He told the petitioners that as long as their appeals are reasonable, they will be resolved.

Then he walked into a reception room where worker Wang Dongxia was listening to Chen Guoan, a petitioner from Boai county in Central China's Henan province.

Wen asked for details of the complaint Chen was lodging and then advised the worker to handle the complaint seriously and in accordance with due procedures.

In the meeting room, eight petitioners from Tianjin, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Hebei, Shanxi and Jiangsu told Wen about their discontent with payment delays, land expropriation, house demolitions and labor disputes among other problems.

When responding to problems with land expropriation and house demolitions in rural areas, Wen said the State Council had just approved new rules to protect the rights of property owners in cities.

Wen said: "As some cases of land expropriation and house demolitions happen in rural areas, the State Council is conducting research to devise relevant laws and regulations to put an end to forced demolitions in rural areas as well.

"Land is the lifeline of farmers," he said. "The government must examine and approve projects using arable land strictly and in accordance with the law ... and give reasonable compensation to farmers."

Apart from listening to individual complaints, Wen also solicited opinions from the petitioners on problems associated with current government work as well as on the draft government work report and the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which will be delivered for review at the annual plenary session of the national legislature in March.

An Jun, a petitioner from Tianjin, said: "I never thought I would be able to talk to the premier up close. I felt strongly his people-friendly and practical working style."

Wang Aiguo, a petitioner from Hubei, said: "I hope officials from various levels can all act like our premier and listen to our opinions."

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