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Officials meet public in chatrooms
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Beijing native Ma Xiao has always been interested in politics, but she never thought she would enjoy a direct line to China's lawmakers - especially all the way from her university in Munich, Germany.

"It's so exciting to be able to participate in the most influential political events, like we were face-to-face across seven time zones," the 26-year-old told China Daily yesterday.

Ma is one of the beneficiaries of the Chinese government's unprecedented move to have lawmakers attending annual sessions in Beijing this week engage citizens in online community chatrooms.

The first chatroom will open to the public tomorrow, the press center of the NPC and CPPCC said yesterday.

Chinese citizens concerned about issues like the global economic crisis will be able to engage various development and reform commissions' deputies, authorities said.

The press center will cooperate with 10 domestic websites, including Xinhuanet.com, to launch the chatrooms.

Yang Jie, a 28-year-old Beijinger studying business in New York, said he never paid attention to the "two sessions" while living in Beijing.

"But I would like to check the news and join the chatroom talks to research my career options in face of the global economic downturn," he told China Daily yesterday.

"Some of my Chinese classmates grew up in rural areas and applied for scholarships to study overseas. Their concerns focus on employment and protecting migrant workers' rights," he said.

"The country has the largest online population at 300 million, and their voices are playing a bigger role in society," deputy chief of People.com.cn's news department Liu Feng told China Daily yesterday.

"The chatrooms will show a more liable and democratic image of the government," he said.

(China Daily March 4, 2009)

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