Shanghai has a reputation as an increasingly open, friendly, and innovative metropolis. The city is seen by many as a pioneering force in economic development and administrative management of the details of daily urban life.
Recently, during the course of representing one of our clients in a very practical administrative matter, we used a new (or actually not new, at all) method for individuals seeking administrative to protect their rights: the Shanghai Mayor’s Box.
Decades ago, it was very difficult to complain to authorities or to seek to authorities for help. It is not only a matter of administrative system development, but is also limited by objective conditions: no Internet, posting network very archaic and no competent authority in charge of this issue, etc. People may need to rely on backward paper mailing or even to appeal to superior officials in person.
During these years, with the development of internet and reform of Shanghai government online system (i.e. “Yi Wang Tong Ban”), now the new and modern Mayor’s box, of course, no longer a physical mailbox, has been transformed into a rather user-friendly system, found at http://wsxf.sh.gov.cn/xf_swldxx/resume_LQ.aspx.
The Shanghai Mayor’s Box is managed by a team directly managed by the General Office of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee. You are allowed to write about any difficulty, concern, or apparently unsolvable problem you have encountered in an online form sent to the box. The General Office’s team will first review the contents and then, if they can’t address it themselves, transfer requests to the competent administrative departments in the appropriate districts for their input. Several transfers may be needed, ultimately, but the final responsible department will send you an official reply letter via the same online system. Each transfer may take one to two working days, and the final department’s reply may take an additional five.
Using this online system does not require any high “qualification”. All you have to do is register your account – however, in order to assure the authenticity of requests, registration of the account requires the following:
-Number of ID
-Valid Chinese address
-Valid Chinese phone number
-Verification code sent to your phone when registering
Foreigners may use passport numbers to register their accounts, and we have successfully resolved seemingly insurmountable administrative issues on behalf of foreign friends. However, the system is entirely in Chinese.
Example issues addressed by the Mayor’s Box include, include, for your reference:
-Community issues: installing elevators, deficient car stops, etc.
-Market regulation issues: fake advertisements, food safety, after-sale services, etc.
-Work-related issues: delayed salary payments, retirement and social security, etc.
-Education, municipal constructions, and other numerous topics in daily life.
Strictly speaking, writing messages to the mayor’s box system will not provide a legal remedy. They amount to administrative “complaints”. However, compared with legal remedies, using the Box has at least has two advantages: 1) it’s quicker, more direct, and less costly; 2) you get a reply directly from the competent depart, which may be useful in subsequent legal proceedings.
Of course, the Mayor’s Box cannot guarantee solutions, and we would not suggest that every response will be effective, but it will guarantee that you get an official reply from the competent department – your request will not be “ignored” by those who should take responsibility.
In a very real sense, the Shanghai Mayor’s Box provides a direct way for people to obtain some information that may be helpful in protecting their rights. However, since it is only a “complaint” system, and does not produce actual legal remedies, we would still suggest consulting a lawyer for help. Feel free to contact us for more information on this topic.