One in 10 Beijingers could be working for the city government's publicity and propaganda services, city media reported yesterday.
At a conference on Thursday attended by propaganda department heads in the city, Beijing vice-mayor and propaganda chief Lu Wei asked every propaganda worker in the city - around 60,000 directly employed by the government's propaganda offices and two million others off the official payroll - to promote "positive attitudes" on the internet, The Beijing News reported.
He told propaganda workers to "read microblogs, open microblogs, post microblogs and study microblogs". An official from the Beijing Information Office confirmed the existence of two million extra propaganda workers, but said some worked for enterprises engaged in propaganda.
On Sina Weibo, one of the mainland's leading microblogging platforms, Lu's comments sparked widespread concern.
"What would weibo become, if 2 million users are Beijing's propaganda workers?" one microblogger asked.
Another seemed to answer the question: "Yes, we now have 2 million internet police."
The municipal government came under fire on microblogging platforms for a range of problems last year, including the capital's traffic congestion and its handling of devastating flooding that killed at least 79 people.
In line with the central government's latest internet regulation, which requires internet users to register with their real names when signing up with network providers, the Beijing city government is expected to introduce real-name registration for mobile phone users, the Beijing Times reported yesterday.