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Internet emerging as vital social tool
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13:34, June 11, 2009

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An official website in China recently launched an online message board for its Web users to express their grievances to local governments and ministerial departments, in a bid to solve their demands in the real world. High-level officials in a dozen provinces have replied to online requests and demands posted on the Web, a sign that the Internet serves as a more and more important channel in China's political realm.

Through People.com.cn, the official website of People's Daily, a citizen of Xingtai in North China's Hebei Province wrote a letter to Jiang Deguo, secretary of the city's commnist Party committee, criticizing the local authority's abuse of power by converting a road from two-way into one-way, which has affected thousands of people.

In late May, a post was pasted by the city's police bureau on People.com.cn, saying it planned to cancel the decision at the request of the Party secretary after reading the online petition.

Web users now have high expectations of ministers and departments of the central government, able to bombard them with demands since the launch of the message board.

Minister of Education Zhou Ji, for example, received a total of 38,821 online messages, followed by Minister of Human Resources and Social Security Yin Weimin and Director of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping, who received 17,830 and 14,726 messages, respectively, according to the website's statistics.

By yesterday, online messages sent to ministerial departments reached 100,000. A number of ministries, such as the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Land and Resources have begun to provide feedback.

After receiving a request by people with physical disabilities demanding equal rights as drivers, the Ministry of Public Security promised to do its best to allow them to drive as soon as possible.

Party secretaries or governors of Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Anhui and 18 other provinces have also replied to online requests and demands posted on the Web.

Such interaction highlights the government's willingness to interact with Internet users. In February, Premier Wen Jiabao conducted his first-ever online live chat with Web users at Gov.cn and Xinhuanet.com, which was regarded as another significant step for online public opinions to be voiced and for leaders to respond directly.

"I've longed for the online communication with Web users for quite a long time," 67-year-old Wen said, adding that he believed it to be an "excellent way" to connect the government with the people.

"Today's officials who can't master Internet-surfing skills or resort to the Internet for better communication with the public are not qualified" to hold their positions, Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the Hunan Provincial Committee of the CPC said in a recent interview.

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