Internet can keep officials 'in check'

Guangdong party official sees advantage to public vigilance via social media

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 5:12am

In sharp contrast to Beijing's crackdown on online rumours, a top Guangdong party official has called for greater acceptance and tolerance of internet "supervision by public opinion".

The bold remarks by deputy provincial party chief Zhu Mingguo , who also heads the Guangdong Communist Party's politics and legal affairs committee, echoed statements from the province's police and judiciary early this week.

Zhu made the remarks in a speech on Wednesday during a video conference involving law enforcement officers across the province, the official Nanfang Daily reported yesterday.

The meeting was to follow up on policy decisions from a national propaganda conference presided over by President Xi Jinping last month. That meeting called on propaganda officials to "seize the ground of new media" and was followed by a crackdown on online political dissent and rumour-mongers.

While Zhu also requested his subordinates to deal with rumour-mongers and help foster a "clean" internet environment, he criticised some officials for resorting to extreme means in the crackdown because they could not adapt to the environment of new media, another Guangdong-based newspaper, the New Express, reported.

"In an environment of new media, we should take the initiative ... and seek breakthroughs in propaganda on internet ... and should not simply resort to the means of 'delete', 'shut down' and 'reject'," Zhu said.

Zhu asked officials at various levels to adapt themselves to working with journalists working with such media.

"We [law enforcement bodies] must increase our endurance and tolerance to [accept] the supervision by public opinion," the Nanfang Daily, a provincial party publication, quoted Zhu as saying.

Zhu called on law enforcement officials to accept supervision by media to improve their performance.

On Sunday, Guangzhou police warned in a microblog post that an excessive crackdown could become a "nightmare".

The provincial politics and legal affairs commission shared the post, as did more than 10,000 internet users before it was deleted.

Xiao Shu , a political affairs analyst, said it was natural that Guangdong officials were the first to speak out against the campaign given the province's pioneering role in the country's reforms and openness.

Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University's department of Media and Communication, said Beijing's effort was doomed to fail given the difficulty in controlling new media.

Additional reporting by He Huifeng