In the past decades, tens of thousands of Chinese from the provinces have descended upon Beijing in hopes of attracting attention from higher authorities regarding their civil law cases. These cases vary from work accidents, violence against family members, murder, extortion, and the majority of which stem from a corrupt rural legal system.
The tradition of petitioning to higher authorities in the Chinese capital reaches back to Imperial times. Outside the city center of Beijing, petitioners’ villages sprung up as those seeking justice face long delays in being heard. The petitioners today face tremendous obstacles in having their cases heard; authorities are overworked due to the sheer number of complaints, which are often clumsily presented without aid of a legal adviser. In addition, Provincial as well as undercover police try to stop the petitioners from going to the National Petition offices to file their cases. If caught, they are briefly sent to an unofficial detention centre where they are held and forced to take the train back to the provinces. For many of the petitioners, it has become their life mission to make the regular journey to the capital only to be sent back without ever having been heard.