Internet helps public affairs decision-making
( 2004-01-28 13:45) (Xinhua)
Having become a popular personal communication tool in China, the Internet is gradually entering the country's public affairs decision-making.
In Shenzhen, the local legislature recently issued a circular on shenzhen.net.cn, asking citizens to contribute suggestions for its legislative work in 2004.
In Beijing, the municipal government has posted a notice on Beijing.gov.cn, soliciting public views on 56 major public undertakings planned for 2004.
Nationwide, cases of the government using the Internet to communicate with the public have been increasing rapidly.
"Thanks to the Internet, the degree of public participation in China's public affairs has reached an unprecedented level," said Zhou Sheng, a university teacher in Beijing.
The government has been vigorously promoting this trend with the launch of two projects, one for building a transparent government and another for building an e-government.
The first project requires government agencies across the country to make public important issues, including fiscal revenue and spending, and major decisions and plans.
The second project encourages government agencies to use computer networks, including the Internet, to improve the transparency of public affairs, draw public views in making major decisions and streamlining bureaucratic procedures.
"Lots of government agencies have come to regard the Internet as a useful tool, one that would help them to make better decisions," said Professor Liu Qinglong of China's Qinghua University, who is heading a research program on e-government.
Besides view collecting sessions, the government also looks upon Internet bulletin boards, on-line chat rooms and Website voting systems as everyday channels of government-public interaction.
In Wuhu, a city in east China's Anhui Province, a special bulletin board has been established on the city's Website where citizens could relate grievances and difficulties. The operator ofthe board would pass these voices to government departments concerned, which are obligated to supply feedback.
The Beijing Municipal Government is considering establishing a similar opinion collecting system in 2004.
On-line chatting in China used to be dominated by youths seeking fun, their other halves and English practicing opportunities. Nowadays, some learned scholars and high-level government officials have joined the population.
On Dec. 23, 2003, China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing participated in a scheduled on-line chat session that lasted around two hours. The content of the chat ranged from China's foreign policy, Sino-US and Sino-Japanese relations to Li's personal life.
Officials from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and other government offices have also participated in on-line chats arranged by Websites with the topics ranging from the significance of certain new policies to the work style of the government and other hot issues.
Nowadays, the Chinese general public now know much more about government administration than any previous periods. The Internet has played a very big role in this change.
Logging on to Websites of governments of various levels and regions, ordinary citizens have instant access to resumes of leading government officials, existing laws and regulations, development plans and the socio-economic status quo, as well as budget and spending of major public-funded projects.
In Heze, an ordinary medium-sized city in east China's ShandongProvince, information on the budget and spending of a sewage treatment project is carried on the city's Website. The Website also lists a number of laws and regulations that influence local citizens, including procedures of applying for legal assistance incourt and licenses for practicing medicine in the rural areas.
In addition, lots of public affairs receive real-time coverage by the Internet, mainly by governmental Websites and Websites specializing in news reports, including China.com.cn, Xinhuanet.com and people.com.cn.
In the first 15 days of 2004, Xinhuanet.com carried live coverage of five press conferences, including those given by the minister of education, director of the General Administration of Civil Aviation and head of the State Administration of Taxation.
Public response to the new opportunities created by the Internet has been enthusiastic.
According to Xinhuanet.com, more than 40,000 people participated in the on-line chat with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxinglast December.
In November of 2003, the Beijing Municipal Government invited public appraisals of the performance of its 60 functional departments through Beijing.gov.cn. More than 100,000 people cast their votes showing satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Commenting on the on-line chat of foreign minister Li, a netizen with the on-line nickname of "Blue Sky, Blue Sea" wrote: "This is further evidence of the creative work style of the currentadministration. I hope it will serve as a good example for other government officials to follow."
"With the Internet, democratic decision making becomes easier to achieve in China, with its population of 1.3 billion," said Zhou Sheng.
According to the latest statistics, the number of Internet users in China had reached 79.5 million by the end of 2003.
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