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Microblogging, new platform for officials to serve public

(Xinhua)

10:08, October 16, 2011

BEIJING, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- As China's booming microblog services have become a popular way for people to voice their opinions, government departments and officials are encouraged to use the tool to better communicate with the public.

China owns the world's largest online population, which has reached 500 million, and the country's most popular microblog service, Sina Weibo, now has more than 200 million registered users.

Government departments and officials nationwide have opened more than 40,000 microblog accounts in a bid to release authorized information timely and receive feedback from the people.

Among them is the official microblog of the Beijing Emergency Medical Center, which opened in February and gained immediate fame for its quick response to public concern over nuclear radiation following the March 11 Japan earthquake.

After the devastating earthquake hit Japan and caused a radiation leak, the center's microblog promptly released information about protection from nuclear radiation.

As a result, the number of its microblog followers soared to 60,000, within days.

"Besides serving as a window for people to be updated about the center's latest services, the microblog also fosters direct online communication between medical professionals and patients," said Zhang Guixia, a staff member of the center.

To many Internet users, the microblogs of authorities bring a relaxed mode of official-to-people communication.

Two years ago, a government microblog would likely have an "official" tone: "If you have any comment or advice, please feel free to submit through the platform. We welcome your opinions, which will help us improve services."

Nowadays, government microblogs are becoming service-oriented, innovative and easygoing.

In June, several entries on the official microblog of the publicity department of the Chengdu municipal government in southwest Sichuan Province scored major online hits.

"If I come across you in Chengdu, I will take you to Mount Qingcheng where you can feel the essence of Taoism;"

"If I come across you in Chengdu, I will take you to the historical wide and narrow alleys."

The official microblog of Chengdu currently has more than 1.5 million followers, ranking first among "government microblogs" on Sina Weibo, thanks to its casual language style.

Cao Guowei, CEO of China's internet portal Sina.com, which runs Weibo, said government microblog accounts on Weibo already cover government departments of public security, tourism, environmental protection, traffic and health care, and have become a platform for authorities to release information and provide public services.

"Meanwhile, the increasing popularity of microblogs makes it develop into a platform to promote public welfare causes, knowledge-sharing, regional economic development and supervision by public opinion," Cao added.

However, with the rapid growth of the service, some people indulge in spreading fabrications and distorted information to mislead the public.

A prominent case in September was a self-proclaimed "high-profile" female prostitute, under the pseudonym of "Ruoxiaoan1," who was later discovered by police to be a 31-year man seeking online fame.

The man posted 401 entries starting in January, inventing stories about working as a sex worker after "accidentally" losing virginity at 22. The microblog account soon attracted more than 250,000 followers.

China's Internet watchdog has urged the building of a healthy, orderly environment for microblogging.

In a seminar Thursday, Wang Chen, head of China's State Internet Information Office, urged the country's government departments and officials to use microblogs more frequently to release authorized information timely and to step up service-oriented communication with the public.

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