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Chinese Netizen Invites Premier Wen for Online Chatting
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A netizen in the southern coastal province of Guangdong has invited Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to conduct online chatting with netizens worldwide during the upcoming parliamentary session in Beijing, citing the successful Internet communication experience of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"With this year's 'two sessions' around the corner, I have a bold request, that is, I want to invite Premier Wen to log on the Internet during the session period and conduct online chatting with Chinese and foreign netizens across the world -- about state issues, family affairs and other big or small topics," the netizen, who identified himself as "an ordinary Chinese", wrote in an online letter posted at the BBS forum of on March 1.

The "two sessions" refer to the once-a-year full meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body. This year's NPC and CPPCC sessions are slated to open in Beijing on Saturday and Monday respectively.

According to Southern Metropolis News, which sponsored the special BBS forum column titled "I have a question for the premier", the netizen is a college lecturer in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, who only revealed his real-life identity as a Mr. Luo.

Luo wrote in his letter that he believes online communication is a good way to increase "emotional exchange and intimacy" between national leaders and ordinary people.

"In Russia, President Putin has chatted online with Russian and foreign netizens for several times, sometimes even discussing his first love...German Chancellor also opened a video blog on the Internet," said Luo, who used to be a visiting scholar in the United States.

"You have eaten dumplings with miners at the bottom of a mine shaft on the eve of the Chinese lunar new year, and have also helped rural migrant workers seek the timely payment of their wage arrears. All these things have made us feel very close to you emotionally," Luo added.

"Even if you can take several minutes out of your tight schedule and just answer a couple of questions from the netizens, it would be a great encouragement to the country's 130 million netizens and the 1.3 billion population of China," he wrote.

According to Southern Metropolis News, Luo's invitation letter was actually inspired by Premier Wen's remarks at last year's two sessions, when he met Chinese and foreign journalists at a routine press conference immediately after the closing of the parliamentary session.

Wen had told the journalists that he gained "confidence and strength" from the fact that Chinese netizens had raised hundreds of thousands of questions to him concerning his work and the performance of his cabinet through the country's leading news websites.

The newspaper said that Xu Yuanyuan, an NPC deputy from Guangdong, had agreed to carry Luo's invitation to Beijing and may convey it to the premier during the two sessions.

Internet has enjoyed a rapid development in China since the late 1990s, and the number of Chinese Internet users reached 132 million at the end of 2006, second largest in the world only after the United States.

In recent years, Internet is playing an increasingly important role in the political life of Chinese. More and more people tend to put forward suggestions, voice their opinions or join policy debates through BBS forums, online polls or personal blogs.

Ahead of this year's two sessions, a dozen Chinese websites and news organizations launched BBS forum columns or online surveys similar to the one run by Southern Metropolis News.

Lu Jian, a China Central Television (CCTV) anchorman in charge of one of such columns, said that by late Thursday some 120,000 netizens had left messages in his column designed to "ask the premier a question."
(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2007)

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