WANG Min, Party discipline-enforcement chief in the north China city of Yangquan, has answered 67 phone calls and received 26 text messages from strangers in the past few days since his personal cell phone number was made public.
Wang is among 260 discipline enforcement and organizational officials in Shanxi Province required by the provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to publish their personal mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses for public tip-offs about alleged misconduct.
The trial policy aiming at tightening disciplinary supervision was carried out during the on-going elections at various levels of the CPC committees, governments, legislatures and political advisory bodies in the province.
However, the public has cast doubt on the effectiveness after some local media reported on Monday that there was no answer to calls to more than half the numbers published on March 19 in Shanxi Daily, the local newspaper.
Zhu Xianqi, spokesman of the Party Organization Department of the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the CPC, corrected two of the 260 numbers on Thursday. "We have checked the numbers and found that two of the numbers were misprinted. We have made the corrections via the government portal of www.sxdygbjy.com," Zhu said.
He said that the Party committee urged officials on Wednesday to personally pick up phone calls and to handle reported cases in a timely manner. He admitted that the provincial committee of the CPC has not issued any rules to punish those who refused to pick up the calls, but that they would step up supervision over the work.
Among 20 of the 260 numbers Xinhua reporters called on Wednesday and Thursday, 16 were answered, but half of the calls were answered by the chiefs' secretaries.
A secretary surnamed Li of Wang Qi, head of the discipline department in the city of Jinzhong, told Xinhua that the number was not Wang's personal phone number but a new mobile phone number Wang set up to use as the "hotline." He asked secretary Li to be the "operator."
Li said he could understand the measure helps create a clean environment for the elections, but his boss does not have time to personally take so many calls.
Wang Min, the discipline chief in Yangquan, said none of the phone calls he had received so far provided useful information. Some calls were advertisements while others were from media or citizens who called to check whether the number was valid.
Li Zhijiang, head of the organization department of the Taiyuan Municipal Committee of the CPC, surprised a Xinhua reporter on Thursday by calling the reporter back after he missed the call on Wednesday due to a meeting. "I take about 20 calls a day. Sometimes I miss calls but I always call back when I have time," he said.
Li said sometimes people report cases outside the scope of his work, but he helps those people contact government departments relevant to handling their problems.
Shanxi is the first province in China to make all disciplinary and organizational officials' phone numbers public.
The provincial committee of the CPC decided to urge officials to make their phone numbers public after hearing the story of Li Zhijiang, the organization department director in the city of Luliang, in the election in 2006.
Li voluntarily published his personal mobile phone number before the 2006 elections to encourage tip-offs. He revoked the appointments of 74 candidates after investigating allegations from tip-off calls about election procedures.
Zhu, the spokesman for the provincial committee of the CPC, said requiring officials to reveal their numbers was one of 12 measures taken this year to establish smooth channels for information on discipline violations concerning the elections.
He said other measures included organizing a group of inspectors to supervise candidate selections and appointments in administrative offices and local legislatures.
Netizens voiced different opinions on the publication of officials' phone numbers in Shanxi. In the chat forum of people.com.cn, the online arm of China's People's Daily, most users doubt it will be effective but believe it is a good effort.
A netizen whose net name is "Sea in a Desert" left the message, "It is good to have a new channel for public voices anyway." Netizen "renwenzhuyi"(translate) worries the officials will not take cases seriously, even after listening to calls.