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Man of the people makes little fuss on first official visit (2)

(China Daily)

09:01, December 10, 2012

The statue of Deng Xiaoping on Lianhua Hill in Shenzhen. [Photo by LIU NIANHAI / FOR CHINA DAILY]

It was noticeable that at a recent meeting, two members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, Li Keqiang and Wang Qishan, broke away from the usual verbose but hollow style. They asked the officials and scholars to dispense with their prepared speeches and enter straight into discussion.

"Why were the receptions always so extravagant? They were trying to flatter the superior leaders. But if extravagance and reliance on exaggerated formality are seen as lacking in merit, they will die out," said Zhen Xiaoying, former vice-president of the Central Institute of Socialism.

"In China, it is very important for the central leadership to set an example because it sends a strong signal to officials at the lower levels," said Ma Huaide, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

The public, especially those with bitter experience of the prevailing formality and bureaucracy, are keen to see the changes implemented as quickly as possible.

Hu Bensheng said he was often delayed by the heavy traffic and police presence when he worked in Changchun, the capital of Jilin province in Northeast China.

To make way for a long line of black sedans, the police always used a bullhorn and shouted "get out of the way" and "stand clear", he recalled.

"What made me even angrier was that on one occasion the road was closed about 30 minutes before the motorcade actually passed by, but none of the officials or departments had bothered to inform people of the closure in advance," said the 37-year-old sales manager.

"It was a winter morning, it was -20 C outside. I was in my car with the air-conditioning on, but many passers-by, those riding bikes, those on foot, students, everybody had to wait in the cold," said Hu.

Meanwhile, when his friends travelled from Southwest China's Sichuan province to Jilin's Changbai Mountain on a sightseeing trip last year, they were told at the gate that entry was forbidden and that they would have to return the next day. The staff said safety concerns about a high-ranking official on a tour of inspection had prompted the closure.

"They were very angry and gave up on their plan. They said they would never come again," said Hu.

He said he was happy to hear about the changes imposed by the new central government and believed that the measures were intended to improve the relationship between officials and ordinary citizens.

"It's really time to cancel the privileges enjoyed by officials or else their relationships with the common people will grow more distant," he said.

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