Weibo enables closer eye on gov't

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The 23-year-old college graduate should have been preparing for her new job, but Ou Jiayang from south Guangdong Province spent the past two months doing something else.

Over the last 51 days, Ou kept asking for the publicity of a feasibility report on a 150-million-yuan renovation of the lighting apparatus along the Pearl River in two areas of Guangzhou, the provincial capital.

"Every citizen needs to be involved in the city's development," Ou said.

She submitted a request for the report in early May but got the run-around from Guangzhou Municipal Development and Reform Commission and Guangzhou urban-rural construction committee.

Yet because of Weibo, a Chinese twitter-like mircroblog, things changed.

Via Weibo, Ou asked users who were concerned about the renovation to send her a photo of their thumb in the thumbs-up position as a sign supporting Ou's demand for the disclosure of the feasibility report. So far, she's received 359 photos.

Ou's concerns were finally addressed by Hou Yongshuan, head of the Guangzhou urban-rural construction committee.

Hou explained that the feasibility report had not been finished, but promised that the committee would release the report after its completion. He welcomed Ou's advice and considered netizens's concerns on urban construction "progress of society."

Ou also found the meeting with hou meaningful, dubbing it as "good interaction between the government and the public." She said she would continue applying for the disclosure of the report and advocate for young people to care about public affairs and take actions beneficial for the society.

Ou is not the only person that attracts pubic attention to public affairs through her own action.

Chen Yihua, a 16-year-old high school student from Guangzhou queried Guangzhou Metro soon after the company announced its plan to spend over 90 million yuan renovating 16 stations of line one.

He first posted his objection on Weibo and an online forum called " Metro Fan," before filing his complaint to the company. But Guangzhou Metro has not yet responded.

Undeterred and standing at the metro exit, Chen held a pasteboard to solicit signitures from local residents to support his objection to the "standardized renovation" of line one. In three days, Chen got the signature of more than 300 residents.

His action aroused even more attention on Weibo. Thousands endorsed Chen's complaint with a flood of objections to the metro renovation project, pushing the Guangzhou Metro company to make a change. It assured the public that the company would economize the renovation and maintain each station's overall decoration.

"The response is affirming," Chen said.

The two young citizens were generally applauded throughout major web portals, popular online forums, and famous microblogs. Netizens praised them as "growing into pillars of society" and said "well-done, youngmen."

Netizen "Adong" commented: "Young people no longer confine their horizons within daily trivialities... but are more aware of their rights and keep a watchful eye on public matters and are more direct to express their opinions."

Experts said that young people's concerns on public affairs play an unneglectable role in pushing for urban development and publicity of government information. They also regarded this as a new channle for the government to hear public voices in policy-making.

Guo Weiqing, a professor with the School of Government of Sun Yat-Sen University, said "One's opinion should be heard and understood, but might not be on the agenda, or be accepted, but the initiator's proposal will be discussed as long as he gets the public's endorsement," Guo said.

He said the young citizen's voice relies on the Internet to spread, and this generation lives with the Internet, so they can use it effectively. Guo believes it sheds a new light on absorbing public ideas for policy-making.

Local party committees and governments of various levels should be openhearted and wide-field to accept critism and monitoring, and pool the wisdom of the people and find out the feelings of the people via the Internet, and solve problems for the people and improve work, said Wang Yang, party chief of Guangdong Province, in a recent on-line chat with local netizens.

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