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Disguised offices lobby for funding and privileges (2)

(Global Times)

13:32, September 21, 2011

Maintaining stability

Liaison offices were originally established to help smooth communication between local governments and the central government. They were a booming success throughout the 1980s, when China first began to implement its market economy.

A liaison office reportedly functions as a base for local officials to lobby the central government in efforts to receive financial grants and preferential policies. Official statistics show Beijing has 10,000 of these offices representing local governments at different levels, along with enterprises, colleges and committees, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

However, such offices have long been viewed as hotbeds for corruption, which prompted the central government in January to close 625 liaison offices representing county or lower-level governments, along with provincial government agencies, according to the Government Office Administration of the State Council.

On the Yuncheng liaison office website, it said in addition to lobbying for money and building a social network for the residents of Yuncheng, who are now based in Beijing, it also has the responsibility of "assisting the relevant departments to receive and contact petitioners from Yuncheng."

"Although liaison offices have been ordered to shut down, local governments still have the responsibility to send back their petitioners; it's one of the major reasons why such offices strive to stay open under various disguises," an insider who worked with different business associations from Beijing-based liaison offices said to the Beijing News. He said it is difficult to tell how many illegal liaison offices are still in operation.

In one case, it was reported that every county under the jurisdiction of a prefecture-level city in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province dispatches at least one person to handle petitioners in Beijing. The 30-member team takes turns engaging petitioners traveling from their areas, according to the report.

An unnamed official from Yuncheng's liaison office also told the Beijing News that they spent 3 million yuan ($469,000) handling petitioners last year.

Media reports have revealed employees from these liaison offices sometimes confine petitioners in secrete locations before allowing them to return to their hometowns.

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