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China's E-Governance Keeping Up with Internet Trend of Microblogging
Source: xinhuanet.com
Source Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: China
Created: Oct 28, 2010

BEIJING, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- At around 9 p.m. Tuesday, the microblogger "Safe Beijing" finished the last update of the day by issuing eight tips on the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning, as a continuing cold snap has forced some Beijing citizens living in bungalows to burn coal for warmth.

Only one minute after it was sent, the post was being widely "forwarded" by fans of "Safe Beijing" on t.sina.com.cn, China's most popular microblog website, which was launched one year ago by web portal giant Sina.

"Safe Beijing" was opened by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau three months ago. The move was considered part of their public relations campaigns to enhance transparency and interaction with residents, as microblogging has become a popular way for Chinese to receive the latest news and information.

"It's good for the police authorities to look at such details that are critical to people's lives. I hope this microblog can play a greater role in the future," said fan "Meng Kunyu", commenting on the post.

A survey conducted by the China Youth Daily newspaper showed that 73.5 percent of the 3,282 respondents from 30 Chinese provinces, regions and municipalities log onto microblogs to learn the latest information, while 66.6 percent use them to participate in online discussions.

"Safe Beijing" has attracted more than 162,000 fans and undoubtedly its influence will be further expanded as the number of its users surged by an additional 20,000 during this past week.

"I once worried that microblogging would become a mere formality for e-governance, but it seems to work well," Professor Wang Yukai with the Chinese Academy of Governance told a Xinhua reporter Wednesday on the sidelines of the ongoing 5th China E-government Forum in Beijing.

The Beijing police have embraced microblogs' unique advantages of being more convenient and interactive, and managed to narrow their gap as the police have become more accessible to ordinary people, Wang said. "They set a good example for other governmental agencies."

Every day, "Safe Beijing" sends posts offering anti-fraud, anti-theft and personal safety tips, as well as the latest police affairs news.

"I can hardly associate the microblogger who appears kind and warmhearted with the stubborn image of police authorities," said a Beijing citizen, Benny Li, also a fan of "Safe Beijing".

Li said the microblogger, an attractive policewoman in her 20s, posted her picture on the site earlier this month. "I felt closer to her after seeing her picture."

Nevertheless, what impressed Li the most was the police authorities' increasingly open attitude towards popular social topics, for example, the attack on Fang Zhouzi, a prominent Chinese anti-fraud science writer, in late August in Beijing.

Four hours after the incident occurred, "Safe Beijing" posted a short message pledging to "release the follow-up information on time" and "protect people's legitimate rights".

"The police used to be very reluctant to release information about criminal cases, especially those that involved celebrities. I didn't expect to get their responses so quickly this time," Li said.

So far, more than 200 Chinese public security institutions at township, municipal and provincial levels, as well as dozens of other governmental agencies have launched microblogging services on t.sina.com.cn.

Additionally, online communities were playing an increasingly important role in helping the government solicit public opinions and improve their relationships with citizens, said Sun Yu, a scholar from Beijing Normal University.

This idea has even caught on in Washington D.C. when, on May 1st last year, the White House logged onto Twitter and issued a post saying, "Today the White House is taking steps to expand how the Administration is communicating with the public."

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