BEIJING - Zhang Chunxian, Party chief of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, confirmed on Thursday he has signed up for a micro blog service and composed the first posting himself.
He is believed to be the highest-ranked Chinese official to use his real name for the modern and popular communications medium.
"I opened the micro blog because I believe it's one of the most efficient channels to receive people's comments and ideas. It can also be used to promote the government's efforts in Xinjiang's development," said Zhang, who is in Beijing for the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
His first micro blog posting appeared at 8:11 pm on Wednesday on qq.com, a popular Web portal.
Zhang told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Thursday that micro-blogging offers a new way to stay in touch.
"I want to learn about netizens' suggestions nationwide on how to improve the livelihoods of Xinjiang's residents before the NPC session begins this year," Zhang explained.
He said the top priority for the regional government this year will be to improve people's standard of living and ensure they are happy with their lives.
As of 7 pm on Thursday, his first posting had received 2,191 responses and more than 10,000 people had registered to become subscribers.
"I've read some of the comments and they are all pretty good and helpful," Zhang said. He added that he has not yet managed to respond to any of them, saying he hopes people will understand that he is busy and cannot respond to all comments but will read them whenever he can.
"We don't expect Zhang to read the comments we send him every day but it is a great gesture to reach out to people and I hope more high-ranking officials will follow suit," said a netizen nicknamed "Xi'er" on Thursday evening.
As the annual sessions of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee open this week, hundreds of NPC deputies and CPPCC members began writing micro blogs to better communicate with people. About 328 had opened micro blogs on sina.com.cn, another popular Web portal, as of March 2.
Zhang, 58, was appointed Xinjiang's Party chief in April 2010, about nine months after the July 5 riot in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009 that left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.
Before his appointment, he served as Party chief of Central China's Hunan province for more than four years.
When he was in Hunan he was known as the "Internet Party chief" because he often directly responded to people's questions online and posted his thoughts on the provincial government's website.
"I love browsing the Internet to learn about what people really think and I brought the habit with me to Xinjiang," Zhang said.