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Chinese Internet users advise gov't through "chitchat" (07/31/09)

WENZHOU, Zhejiang, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Officials abusing public funds or playing games online at work have to be cautious.

A website in east China's Wenzhou City is exposing their behavior to the public and higher authorities.

A criminal investigation officer who drove a police car to a square to walk his dogs in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, was sacked. A government employee was fired for playing games online during work hours. All the clues came from a website, www.703804.com, which attracts up to more than a million clicks every day.

"703804 means chitchat in our accent. We opened the platform in 2004 for the public to voice complaints and expose dishonesty," said founder Ye Shao.

"People are not only talking on the Internet about rising water prices or the noisy karaoke bars. They have played an important role in exposing corruption cases as the government is more likely to listen our voices online," Ye said.

The website has prompted Internet vigilante hunts, known as "human flesh search engines," to track a credit bank official who fled after embezzling public funds in 2006.

"Police arrested the suspect based on our evidence," Ye said. "Since then the Wenzhou procuratorate has made it a rule to monitor the website for new cases."

In late November, 2008, a post appeared on the website, exposing officials who abused public funds on trips to Las Vegas and Niagara Falls.

The photos of documents and receipts left on a subway in Shanghai showed officials from Wenzhou spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in April on overseas sightseeing tours disguised as study trips.

The story was picked up by other websites, leading to the investigation to and punishment of the officials involved.

"I'm proud that netizens devote time and wisdom to make suggestions and expose deceit on the website, and make our voices heard by policy-makers," Ye said.

Public security officials in Wenzhou routinely visit "703804" when they start work every day. "We must know what problems are emerging in the community and solve them quickly, or higher officials will criticize us," said a police officer, who declined to be named.

Officials working in traffic, environmental protection, construction, fire fighting and civil affairs are also obliged to listen to online voices.

The Wenzhou environmental protection bureau has participated in building the website.

"Relying on reports from telephone calls, reading piles of documents, and listening to work reports might not be an effective way for us to collect information," said Wang Zhongyi, the bureau director.

"Now it is easier for us to know what's happening through the Internet as tens of thousands of people are giving suggestions and making postings that reflect the issues more clearly."

The bureau also posts information on the website to inform the public on progress in resolving problems.

"When I worked in Wenzhou, I often browsed the website to see what people were talking about. Sometimes I posted a comment," said Li Qiang, secretary general of the Communist Party of China Zhejiang Provincial Committee.

"Online opinions have become an indispensable public medium that we must pay attention to," he said.

"The website is famous for its independence and freedom of expression within the framework of the law," said a netizen called "Baxiong Baci." "I hope the website will grow to become a more powerful outlet for the voices of the common people."

 

 


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