China media urges officials to speak to web users
Micro-blogging services thought to be the ways to 'know the people and understand their concerns' in China.
Tue, Aug 02, 2011 at 08:56 AM
MICRO OUTRAGE: A Chinese blogger uses Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service on Sina.com, in Shanghai, China. The site has been a hotbed of criticism in light of the July 23 train wreck. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
BEIJING — The mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday urged more officials to go online and speak honestly with web users, in a sign of the growing importance of social networking sites in China.
The comment piece in the People's Daily comes after Internet users flooded popular Twitter-like sites to vent their anger at the government's handling of the July 23 train crash that killed 40 people and injured nearly 200 more.
Web users unleashed unusually high levels of vitriol after China's worst ever high-speed train accident, accusing officials of corruption, burying evidence and compromising safety in the drive to develop rail technology.
"The first principles of speaking on weibo (micro-blogs) is not to use cliches and not tell lies," said the comment piece in the newspaper which itself was highly critical of the government's response to the disaster.
"Weibo puts the populace on the same level as Shakespeare... and forces some officials to relearn how to speak," said the article which was also carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
"Only through the timely and accurate response to the deep concerns of web users can you achieve the objective of weibo — to know the people and understand their concerns."
Weibo, which saw the number of users hit 195 million by the end of June, has been hailed by Chinese Internet users as a new avenue for mass expression in a country which tightly controls information.
But the growing strength and influence of the web population — the world's largest at 485 million — has fuelled concern in Beijing about the Internet's potential as a tool for generating social unrest, and authorities have stepped up surveillance in recent years.
Senior leaders rarely go online to chat with web users. Premier Wen Jiabao has taken part in at least two online discussions while a senior housing minister last year chatted about soaring property prices.
Copyright 2011 AFP Global Edition