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Respect voice of the Internet
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Local officials should reshape their attitude toward the freedom of speech in cyberspace and stop tarnishing the image of local governments by disrespecting citizen's legal rights, says an article in the Beijing News. Following is an excerpt:

What a drama when police from Lingbao, Henan province, traveled thousands of miles to Shanghai to nab and jail Wang Shuai for eight days only because he posted an online article criticizing the local government for their illegal land requisition.

Wang's online article actually contained nothing slanderous. It was just a normal expression of a citizen's views on undue measures taken by a local government after other regular complaints failed. Obviously, the local government overeacted to Wang's legally legitimate behavior.

Previously, Wang reported their illegal acts to the local land administration bureau but he did not get any response for half a year. Compared with the slow response to his complaint, the local government mounted a blitz to catch Wang, a criminal in their eyes. Wang had posted the article on Feb 12 and was detained 20 days later.

Some officials even lamented, "gone are the days when people were tame. Now, they are so bold in voicing criticism online and we can't govern them any more".

It is clear that without the aid of the Internet, regular complaints to the government made by those such as Wang Shuai would have been of no effect and the good image of the local government would have been preserved intact.

However, the intractable Internet has now upset and even angered some officials for fear that their corrupt deeds may come to light one day because of the powerful monitoring function of the Internet.

Out of fear, they should have corrected their previous misdeeds. Unfortunately, they resorted to the abuse of their power and jailed those who dare criticize them. They almost forgot that it is not officials but the people who have the final judgment in whether Wang should be put in jail.

(China Daily April 13, 2009)

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