Party chief shows common touch via microblog
When the Shanghai party chief wrote back to the relative of a cancer patient via online microblog this week it was seen as the latest example of Communist Party officials using social media to garner support, boost popularity and polish their image.
On Monday, secondary school teacher Qin Ling posted on his microblog an article titled: 'An open letter to Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng from the relative of a terminal cancer patient.' The article, about Qin's struggle in seeking medical treatment for his father, was widely circulated online.
But Qin 'never expected' that Yu would reply two days later through the Shanghai municipal government's official microblog account, the Jiefang Daily reported.
'Everyone has parents and everyone has relatives,' Yu wrote.
'The pain of a person, seeing that a relative who raised him is suffering from a serious illness, but being unable to help, and seeing that relative being hurt by our system's shortcomings, is self-evident.'
He added that 'all of us will try to help you', and that they would try to change the medical system, without giving further details.
Qin's father was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of last year, and over the past two months several hospitals have refused to treat him because of his terminal status and because they said they were already at full capacity.
Qin wrote that his father was discharged 'by force' from Shanghai's Changhai Hospital, and the Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital did not admit him. Qin said that some doctors had advised him to lie about his father's condition in order to admit him. Others recommended or prescribed expensive drugs not covered by the medical insurance scheme.
Qin then appealed to Yu and other leaders to provide terminal patients with a 'stable and safe environment' where they could feel dignity.
Yu called Qin on Wednesday to express concern, health authorities contacted him, and at least two hospitals said they were willing to admit his father, Xinhuanet.com reported.
Professor Pu Xingzu , who teaches political science at Fudan University, said there had been a trend of mainland officials attaching importance to new media, such as Twitter-like microblogs.
'China has nearly 500 million web users, and about half of them use microblogs - a new channel for the public to make their own voices heard,' Pu said. 'So government leaders are keeping a close eye on microblogs.'
Sina.com, which operates the country's most popular microblog service, issued a report in November saying that 8,628 officials and 18,500 government units across the country had opened microblog accounts on the site.
Pu said Yu's letter would portray him as an official close to the people and would no doubt benefit him ahead of the Communist Party's 18th national congress this autumn.
The estimated daily average of microblog postings on the mainland