'Direct line' to top leaders opens

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, September 13, 2010
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Internet users swarmed a message board on people.com.cn in the past week after the website promised to pass their messages to the country's top leadership.

The official website of People's Daily launched the message board, whose title translates as "Direct Line to Zhongnanhai," on the CPC's News channel Wednesday to provide an opportunity for Internet users to offer suggestions to departments under the CPC Central Committee (CPCCC) as well as its senior officials, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Zhongnanhai is the headquarters of the CPC and the central government.

China has the largest number of Internet users in the world, reaching 420 million by June. The message board is seen as a new move by official media to bring the government and Party closer to the public.

More than 16,000 messages were left for President Hu within four days of its opening, and Premier Wen's page also received some 11,000 comments as of 6 pm Sunday.

A large portion of the messages concerned hot social topics, including ballooning housing prices, the anti-corruption campaign and political reform.

"President Hu, I am a college student and I want to know the timetable and general direction of future political reform," said one Internet user on Hu's web page Sunday.

Another Internet user suggested that top government officials should purchase commercial apartments to experience the pressure felt by ordinary people.

"The message board has created a platform to develop the public's civic awareness by en-couraging discussions of state affairs," said Lin Zhe, a professor of anti-corruption research at the Party School of the CPCCC.

"It is putting into practice Wen's words from this year's Government Work Report, which said that the country should pave the way for the public to criticize and monitor the government," said Lin, adding the new channel would help ease social tensions.

The Xinhua News Agency's website opened a forum during a session of the National People's Congress in March, allowing Internet users to raise questions for Wen, which received positive responses.

However, some scholars suspect this new message board is just a superficial gesture rather than an effective channel for reporting problems.

"I wonder how the website will report these messages to top leaders and how many problems can eventually be resolved," said Yu Guoming, a scholar of media studies at the Renmin University of China.

"Many local government officials have opened personal blogs to build up a connection with the public, but most of them ended up being badly maintained, as they did not take them seriously," said Yu.

Some mayors in Southwest China's Sichuan Province were accused of running their mailboxes inefficiently - replies to Internet users' comments either came very late or were full of empty platitudes, the Beijing News reported Sunday.

The editors of the message board could not be reached for comment Sunday, and an outline of the board did not give any details on how it would report the thousands of messages to top leaders.

Lin argued that as long as problems are reported to the central government, there is a greater possibility that these problems will be resolved, suggesting that government officials at all levels should develop a routine mechanism to build up direct contacts with the public and invite citizens to discuss the feasibility of public policies before they are put into force.

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