The reports on Zhang Yunquan, a local official held accountable for responding to petitions, were the lead stories for hundreds of Chinese media outlets across the country.
Zhang Yunquan, head of Taizhou city office responsible for people's complaints in east China's Jiangsu Province, has been awarded a host of honors including "excellent state servant" for his warmth to petitioners and competence to handle complaints.
Zhang's office was often slighted by other officials who did not want to take action to solve the complaints. On the other hand, others who processed the petitions faced the frustrated petitioners who blamed him as "rude" and "indifferent."
However, Zhang Yunquan has earned a reputation as having a kind and warm heart and admirable courage while dealing with corrupt officials and illegal administrative decisions.
"The story of Zhang is real impressive, and is significant to the country's administrative reality. That is why the reports on him could receive such a huge response," said Liu Hanjun, mass media expert who has a long-term research on such kind of reports on Chinese media.
Liu acknowledged that Zhang's popularity reflected Chinese government's strategy to build a harmonious society and Chinese people's strong desire for social justice.
In recent years, policemen and judges have been more likely than farmers, soldiers and workers to be selected as "models." Those new "models" usually have common characters of "loving ordinary people" along with Zhang Yunquan, according to Chinese media.
It was a centuries-old Chinese tradition to seek justice from higher authorities, even top leaders, when they were mistreated by officials or wronged in courts. After the Communist Party of China (CPC) came to power in 1949, a nationwide petition-handling system was established to guarantee this right.
Along with the rapid economic growth in the past decade, Chinese society is undergoing a miserable transitional period with drastic institutional and ideological changes. Meanwhile, the remarkable increase of Chinese people's democratic and legal awareness has proposed a higher requirement on the government performance in line with law.
In the past decade, China has witnessed a continued increase in the number of people filing complaints with the government authorities, sources with the State Bureau for Calls and Letters ( SBLC) said.
A large proportion of complaints are from workers who have lost their jobs in bankrupted state-owned enterprises and farmers losing their farmland due to urbanization. An official survey reveals that 40 percent of these complaints and pleas are about police, courts and prosecutors' offices, 33 percent about the government, 13 percent about corruption and 11 percent about injustice.
"Under such a circumstance, the government should play a just role as a coordinator of different interests. Especially, the government must strengthen the protection on the legal rights of weak people," said Zhu Xiangyuan, member of Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
The CPC, China's leading party in power, has publicized its strategic goal to build a harmonious society, promising more protection to the common people. As one of most substantial steps to better learn and solve social conflicts, China's central government has attached more importance to the work of handling complaints.
The reports also showed that the success of Zhang is not a result of his personal work, but also due to the strong support from his superiors and a relatively complete mechanism. The local government regulated that all young officials should work in Zhang 's office for three months before they were promoted, and lawyers were asked to provide legal aid to those petitioners with judicial problems.
China publicized revised regulations on petitions on Jan. 17 this year, aiming to step up the protection of petitioners' rights and penalize those who fail to solve people's complaints.
Analyst here said that media's unusual welcome to Zhang Yunquan will put a good example for those officials who represent the government to ordinary people and give hope to those disappointed at the indifference and poor efficiency of some officials.