While thousands of NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members are filing into the Great Hall of the People to start their annual sessions, the 26.5 million common Internet surfers throughout the country also switch on their home computers, dial up to log on to Internet and begin their cyber tour of the congress, voicing their views, proposals and comments.
IT technology has indeed brought the legislative and top advisory bodies closer to the ordinary Chinese. The annual discussion of state affairs is no longer confined to the congress avenues. It has in fact been unfolded in every ordinary family.
Tens of thousands of common people have frequented chatrooms and forums of such major websites as XINHUANET.COM, PEOPLE.COM and BEIJINGNEWS.COM to air their views on issues ranging from fighting corruption to the Taiwan issue, WTO issues, education and social security.
These websites have also provided visitors with the opportunities to meet face-to-face with NPC delegates or government officials. In addition to government networks, some commercial dotcoms have also attracted crowds of visitors by webcasting news conferences and opening special on-line forums on NPC and CPPCC sessions.
Statistics from BEIJINGNEWS.COM show that the number of visitors has kept rising. XINHUANET.COM's on-line suggestions and comments has received 1,100 proposals over the past few days.
A person by the net-name, "Live for Love", proposed the setting-up of a special social security safe net for the low-income population if we are to stimulate domestic demand, saying that "without a social security umbrella, low-income people would keep their purses tight, even there is some money in them."
Another Internet visitor, called himself "Guard of the Environment", proposed to lay a pipeline parallel to the cross-country pipeline to transmit natural gas from westernmost Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to Shanghai to deliver desalinated seawater from the east to Xinjiang to quench the thirst of the vast desert.
Local commercial dotcoms are vying with one another to make their net layout more attractive to visitors.
SOHU.COM, one of the few Chinese firms listed on the NASDAQ stock market in the United States, said that it received over 20,000 people on March 5 alone, when the NPC was opened, and what the common people are most concerned about are such issues as impartial adjudication and NPC's oversight of the government.
In China, people are free to pick up any subject for discussion, though it's a must to abide by the law as anywhere else in the world. Premier Zhu Rongji, who delivered a government work report Tuesday, has won wide approval from people in chatrooms.
"The premier is indeed honest and dependable," said a person during a chat show.
"He looked quite composed in the manner of delivering the report," said another.
While enjoying the tremendous progress China has made over the years, a chatter challenged the budget on education proposed by Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng, saying that "it is not enough."
Many of the delegates are active Internet visitors, too. Bringing their own laptops with them, they would log on to the Internet wherever possible in order to know what the ordinary people are talking about.
"The on-line proposals may have made up for what we have missed or left out," said Huang Cuiyu, a woman lawmaker. She has collected a lot of views and suggestions from the common people to enrich her own motions, Huang noted.
China has done a great deal to promote democracy over the past two decades. The Internet has provided a short cut. An official with the State Council Information Office described Internet as a media that is the most capable, the most efficient and the closest to the people.
In an increasingly open world, Internet has enabled the common people to exercise their constitutional rights.
"The Internet is very useful for the public to oversee government activities and help the government improve work efficiency," said Li Yuanchao, secretary of the Nanjing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, capital of Jiangsu Province. During a meeting with some visitors arranged by XINHUANET.COM Tuesday, Li disclosed that the city is now building an "e-government" in a bid to make it clean and efficient.
(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2002)