Opinion / Editorials

Essential for govts to timely respond to public concerns

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-08-15 07:22

Essential for govts to timely respond to public concerns

Smoke billows from the site of an explosion in Tianjin, August 13, 2015. [Photo/CFP]

Whether a government timely responds to public sentiments about an event has a bearing on its credibility. A timely and honest response may avert a public crisis, while doing the opposite may provoke one.

That explains why the State Council released a document on Friday that requires governments at all levels to timely respond to public concerns about events such as serious accidents or natural disasters. It states news conferences should be held no later than in 24 hours after an event takes place.

It is indeed necessary for the government, local governments in particular, to do a better job in this respect.

In the "good old days" for the government, when there was almost no social media and government-run media were the only channels for information, it was quite possible to cover up events which might give rise to public anger. But nowadays, with the popularity of social media, it is impossible to keep a lid on things in this way.

However, some local government officials still find it difficult not to give in to their natural inclination to try and hush up any bad news.

In the belief that no news is good news, they still consider the best way to keep the government's credibility and reputation intact is simply to try and keep people in the dark.

For example, when reports began to emerge at the end of last year that students in a middle school in Changzhou in East China's Jiangsu province were showing symptoms of serious illnesses that their parents claimed was the result of the school being built on contaminated soil, the local government did not offer any response until April when the central government organized an investigation into the event.

It is untenable and sometimes dangerous for a government to believe that as long as it prevents the official news organizations from reporting about an event that people won't know about it.

The longer a government keeps silent about an event, the more credence rumors and conspiracy theories will gain, further damaging the credibility and reputation of the government and officials concerned.

The challenges governments face in dealing with people's concerns about something that has happened have never been so tough and demanding.

Nevertheless, the State Council document tells officials that the best way to respond to public concerns is to make a clean breast of things from the start.

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