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China reforms officials' marks to stop petitioner abuse: media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 12, 2013

China Singles Day online shoppers spend almost $6 bn
Beijing (AFP) Nov 12, 2013 - Chinese shoppers spent a record 35.0 billion yuan ($5.7 billion) at the country's biggest online marketplaces on Singles Day, their operator said Tuesday, after the festival created by e-tailers to persuade the loveless to console themselves with retail therapy.

November 11 -- or 11.11 -- was proclaimed as "singles' day" because of the number of ones in the date, with sellers promoting discounts to the nation's singletons as well as price-sensitive buyers, and it is now China's busiest shopping day.

Consumers snapped up everything from mobile phones to cars to diamond rings, reports said.

They paid 35.0 billion yuan on Tmall and Taobao, the two shopping platforms of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, up 83 percent on last year, the company said in a statement.

That was more than 10 times the average daily turnover on the two virtual marketplaces last year, according to a research report cited by Chinese media.

More than 402 million users visited the two sites on Monday, double last year's number, Alibaba added.

"It was crazy buying stuff on Taobao during 11.11 -- just like picking up things for free," said a user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Sales figures from other e-tailers are yet to be announced, but analysts estimated the combined value of transactions on the country's top 10 operators would exceed 80 billion yuan, the state-run Economic Information Daily reported.

Bestsellers ranged from mobile phones to insurance policies to sweaters and underwear, and one online auto seller has sold more than 13,000 cars worth two billion yuan by Monday afternoon, reports said.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, a woman identified only by her surname Huang paid five million yuan as a deposit at a Tmall store for a 13.3-carat diamond ring with a 20.5 million yuan price tag.

China is separating local officials' performance assessments from the number of complaints against them so that they address issues rather than detain complainants, reports said, prompting praise in state-run media Tuesday.

For centuries ordinary Chinese have been able to use a system known as petitioning to bring unresolved local grievances to higher-ranking bodies, a right that has persisted into the Communist era.

But many local authorities, fearing low marks for eliciting a high number of complaints, ended up devoting significant resources to intercepting petitioners and holding them in unofficial "black jails".

"Not ranking different places according to the number of petitions will ease the pressure that officials face while handling them," a commentary in the Global Times said.

"They can shift their focus from 'numbers' and 'political performance' to actually solving people's real problems."

The petitioning system was "increasingly being considered a source of discontent", it acknowledged.

Authorities began rolling out the new policy after fresh leadership took the helm of the Communist party in November last year, the Beijing News reported on Monday.

"Getting rid of the ranking has really cut down on the pressure at work," it quoted an anonymous deputy chief of a provincial petition office as saying.

Lower-level governments had begun "to focus their energy on resolving local-level petitioning cases, rather than organising people to go to Beijing to intercept the petitioners", the report said.

From January to August this year the volume of petitions nationwide fell 2.5 percent, with subjects ranging from house demolitions to lack of environmental protection to court cases, the Beijing News said, citing official figures.

In a high-profile case last year Tang Hui, a mother from central Hunan province, was sentenced to a labour camp for petitioning repeatedly after her 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute.

Tang had sought accountability for police officers that she said aided the culprits. She was freed after just over a week following a public outcry.


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