China’s petitioners have a history of “gao yuzhuang” (告御状) where victims of injustice during China’s feudal times would petition officials in hope of redressing their grievances. When attempts failed, petitioners often resorted to extreme measures.
In today’s Guangzhou (or China at large), not much has changed: disgruntled petitioners denied redress often draw attention to their issues by threatening to harm themselves.
According to figures released by the Guangzhou Politics and Law Commission, Guangzhou has seen a sharp rise in incidents of “malicious acts of jumping from bridges,” said the commission in charge of the city’s social stability and legal affairs.
“Since April 14, Guangzhou has seen 85 cases of people climbing atop a bridge, of which 73 were not suicide attempts. Almost 90 percent of the people attempting the act were not local residents and most of the cases in question were not related to issues in Guangzhou,” said Luo Zhenliang, deputy head of the city’s police department, reported by Nanfang Net on April 18.
These attention-seeking methods were labelled by the official as “kidnapping Guangzhou’s public interest, damaging the city’s image and severely affecting people’s normal life.”
To further clarify his point, the commission cited stacks of well prepared figures. In April 2009 alone, Zhuhai had 8 incidents of attention seekers threatening to jump from the Zhuhai Bridge. As a result, the Zhuhai fire brigade sent out 49 firefighters, eight fire trucks and eight 22-meter-long air cushions, an ambulance with a doctor and two nurses, leading to a direct economic loss of more than RMB 1 million ($162,000).
Admittedly, these acts cause unnecessary economic losses. But when the ideal petition process through the Petition Bureau is less than satisfactory, and the legal system offers little recourse, the number of bridge jumpers is unlikely to decrease any time soon.
Home page photo credit: Nanfang Metropolis Daily