China's Premier Meets Petitioners in Show of Concern

Chinese news media reported Tuesday that Premier Wen Jiabao has had rare contact with people petitioning against governmemnt actions such as land grabs and unpaid wages.

The official news agency Xinhua said Mr. Wen visited China's top complaints department Monday. He asked officials to address people's complaints responsibly and to create conditions for the public to criticize and supervize the government.

The report says Mr. Wen was surrounded by petitioners filling in appeals forms when he arrived in the State Bureau for Letters and Calls.

He shook hands with them and inquired about their complaints. He also solicited their opinions about the work and system of the government.

He said the government should expand channels for the public to make suggestions and ensure that administrative procedures are transparent.

According to Xinhua, It was the first time a Chinese premier had a face-to-face meeting with petitioners in Beijing since the founding of communist China in 1949.

China's fast economic development has spread into some rural areas where officials often forced people from their land and homes without their consent and without adequate compensation.

During President Hu Jintao's recent visit to Washington last week, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed China's poor human rights record, especially repressing criticism against the government.

Mr. Hu acknowledged that a lot still needs to be done in terms of human rights.