China / Society

Spokespersons trained for nation's petition institutions

( Updated: 2015-05-26 17:15

Authorities handling petitions have organized the first-ever training session for spokespeople who work for the petition system nationwide, in an effort to improve transparency and better communication with the public in the Internet era, Southern Metropolis Daily reported Tuesday.

The State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the top government agency in charge of receiving and dealing with petitions from the public, held a five-day training program, from May 17 to 22, for over 120 spokespersons who work at provincial and deputy provincial-level branches of the bureau.

It's the first time that the bureau has held a training of this kind, in a bid to help the spokespersons respond to social concerns and questions more promptly and actively.

"It's been an unwritten tradition for departments dealing with petitions that they stress actions over explanations," said Zhang Enxi, the deputy director and spokesman of the State Bureau of Letters and Calls. "That creates misunderstandings easily."

Zhang said departments' concerns, such as uttering wrong words, afraid of becoming a hot topic online and being closely examined by the public or leaking secrets accidentally, are the reasons why they don't speak in public.

He said in the new media era when anyone could act like a media company the idea of not explaining the petition work is outdated.

When a man was shot to death at a railway station in Qing'an, Heilongjiang province about three weeks ago, the delay in the official release of the surveillance video triggered a wave of rumors and speculations. The delay was blamed on the local authorities.

Although the blame is not directed at the local petition agency, the training session suggested that it was also crucial for a department dealing with petitions to respond rapidly and clearly to the public.

China began building a system of spokespeople for the petition-related agencies after the Party congress in 2012. For the first time in history, China installed spokespersons for all agencies dealing with petitions in cities at provincial and deputy provincial level.

The State Bureau for Letters and Calls requires that all petition agencies above county level should install a system of spokespeople by June 30.

During the training program, spokespeople faced heated questioning about the hot issues and incidents as practice.

According to Zhang, the spokesperson system will be improved for petition agencies and the local press conferences will be held for the public on regular or irregular basis.

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