Looks like it’s not just the Yunnan government that’s recognized the power of the internet. Today, Premier Wen Jia Bao went online to talk to netizens in a chat jointly hosted by Xinhua and the central government. According to Xinhua, Grandpa Wen began internetting with the country at 3pm and responded to questions about the financial crisis, unemployed migrant workers, Sino-U.S. Relations and – surprisingly – free speech.
From the China Daily summary:
People has the right to criticize government policy and government also needs to be open and democratic in its policy-making, Premier Wen said in the online chat with netizens.
“I always think that people has the right to know what the government is thinking and doing, and voice their criticism of government policy,” Wen said in the Internet forum.
Wen said he was nervous because this is his first ever online discussion with netizens, though he surfed the Internet everyday for 30 minutes to one hour.
“But I will always remember my mother’s words to be sincere with people. I will talk to you with my heart. I will be honest, that is, I will tell you the true situation and listen to your true voices,” he said.
Wen said the government has taken measures to ensure people’s participation in major policy-making, for example, public hearings are being held in the drafting of major laws and policies.
Granted, we won’t hold our breaths for the CCP to put its money where its mouth is on the issue of democratic citizen participation. Still, it’s nice to see that, at least officially, the party line welcomes open criticism of the government.
On a side note, here are some of the more hilarious “questions” posed by netizens to Premier Wen Jia Bao:
Paul Ciszek: This online chat is so awesome. When will you be online again?
Sophia: Hi. Premier. I noticed you have a facebook id. I wonder if you really use that id to surf the facebook. Can I add you to my friend list?
Ted03: How many hours do you sleep per day?
Biele: Mr. Premier, after the Beijing Olympic Games, I really want to pay a visit to China. Could you recommend some interesting places in China? Thank you.