Internet debate heats up as China's "two sessions" loom

08:10, March 03, 2011      

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When the State Council, China's Cabinet, met Wednesday to discuss raising the individual income tax threshold, fierce debate raged.

The war of words came not from the government meeting, but was waged over Internet forums, where ordinary Chinese fought to make their opinions heard.

In one squabble between microblogs, "Guang Qi Tang" and "Ye Luo Fighting" argued on Sina.com over what the threshold of individual income tax should be.

"I hope it is raised to 10,000 yuan (1,521 U.S. dollars) from the current 2,000 yuan," said "Ye Luo Fighting" after seeing "Guang Qi Tang's suggestion of 5,000 yuan, adding the suggested sum was still too low.

The spreading use of Internet has underlined the Chinese people's willingness to participate in talks on the country's future, especially with government officials.

Discussions were heated among China's 400 million netizens, especially concerning the "two sessions," when they hope their opinions will be heard by the government.

The "two sessions" refers the two important meetings in China's political calendar: the fourth session of the 11th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, which opens March 5, and the fourth session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, which convenes Thursday.

More than 140,000 people responded to an on-line survey on the official website of Xinhua News Agency on topics for the two sessions, compared with just 19,000 last year.

Their topics mainly focused on home prices, income distribution, price controls, corruption and employment.

As the government maps out the blueprint for the country's next five years of development at the "two sessions," common Chinese see them as an important channel to voice their opinions.

Beijing pensioner Wang Jilin said, "I never miss the two sessions. I read news about the two sessions on the Internet every day. I have my microblog though I'm slow in typing."

The yearning to make themselves heard was reflected in Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's two-hour on-line chat with the public on Sunday, which attracted tens of thousand of public questions.

"In the past, it was hard to imagine talking directly to the Premier. This is a very good way for people, especially at grass-roots levels, to express their real problems," said Fan Wei, who works in the head office of the Bank of China.

Representatives at the two sessions are also taking advantage of the Internet. Zong Qinghou, NPC delegate and founder of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group, revealed the details of a proposal in an on-line interview with Sina.com on Monday, hoping to get support and advice.

"Some local governments say they will take back, without compensation,land sold for residential use after the 70-year use period. I propose to revise the regulation," Zong said in the interview.

His proposal has been forwarded and commented on by thousands of microbloggers.

Source:Xinhua
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