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Netizens Constitute Most Active "Constituency" in China

The first thing Zhou Hongyu does after his rise every morning is to surf his personal website, www.hongyu-online.com, to see if there are new proposals other netizens have sent him.


Zhou, 46, is the first netizen deputy to China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), who launches a personal website designed as a forum for solicit proposals from website discussion of state affairs.


"The Internet is a most primary means to collect information in a modern society, and as the number of netizens swells and their cultural accomplishments accumulate, the impact of web surfers over the country's political affairs will increase daily," said Zhou, also a noted professor of Central China Normal University.


Long before the annual NPC session opened last Friday, Zhou had finalized 21 motions and proposals, half of which were based on whatever materials coming from his personal website. "Some netizens suggested drafting laws against discrimination and for national reunification, and some advocated using scientific ways for family planning," he said.


Zhou, who concurrently serves as deputy director of the Wuhan city education bureau, said he has done a lot to pool the "good, smart ideas" from netizens and incorporate them into motions and proposals he brings to NPC sessions for deliberation.


China had 68 million netizens by July 2003, according to the China Internet Information Center. The figure, though it accounts for only 5.3 percent of the country's 1.3 billion population, is increasing by a daily average of 50,000, said Cai Mingzhao, deputy director of the Information Office of the State Council, China's central government.


A survey conducted by the Social Development Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 12 major cities shows that 71.8 percent of the netizens agree to the notion "they have more opportunities to express their views online," and 72.3 percent of them hold that "government officials can acquaint themselves with more public opinions through the Internet."


In fact, most netizens air their views through media-run websites, many of which began sorting out public opinion two weeks before the sessions of the top legislature and advisory body.


Meanwhile, a growing number of deputies to the top legislature and members of the national advisory body enrich and substantialize their motions and proposals with selected materials from netizens.


NPC deputy Lu Zhongmei, who took the lead in soliciting motions and proposals on state affairs through the Internet, said the high-tech-based web is an open, transparent pool that provides a virtual forum for people to unbosom their hearts.


Lu, also an established law expert, predicted "Chinese netizens will draw more responses from the lawmakers and political advisors, who meet at their annual sessions, in the future as the online media in China are in the process of being matured and rational gradually."


Although the number of netizens makes up a small portion of China's population, said NPC deputy Zhou Hongyu, they are mostly part of the ordinary citizens and have rich first-hand knowledge about how government policies are implemented at the grass-roots level.


Therefore, their desires and wishes as "essential elements" of the people's cannot be ignored, he said.


"Netizens are a special group of constituency who can express their will at ease on the Internet, and their activities will facilitate to some extent the development of democracy in China," Zhou said.


(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2004)


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