Amid a nationwide crackdown on Internet dissent, Shenzhen mayor Yu Youjun held a 2.5-hour meeting on Sunday with the author of a critical online essay, reports said. In a landmark move, Mr Yu invited Wo Zhongjiao, a critical writer active on the Internet under the pen name 'I am crazy about you', to face-on-face talks regarding the development of the special economic zone, the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Metropolitan News said. Following the meeting, Mr Yu promised to broaden channels for Shenzhen residents to express their opinions. Mr Wo, a 28-year old native of Wuhan in Hubei province who works at a securities firm in Shenzhen, last year wrote an 18,000-word article titled 'Who ditched you, Shenzhen?' and posted it on the Internet. The article was widely circulated and sparked intense debate nationwide on the Web over the future of the city. The article described Shenzhen as a city facing decline. It said that investors and big firms were fleeing the city as the zone lost its advantages over other mainland cities. It also said co-operation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong was poor. Mr Wo, an economics graduate from Wuhan University, said he was surprised by the invitation. He said the meeting showed that the Shenzhen administration was capable of self-reflection and that it was fully aware of the impending crisis. A spokesman for the Shenzhen authority said the mayor bore no ill-feelings towards Mr Wo for his negative online comments. Officials said the mayor had instead found the article contained some useful suggestions. 'Mr Wo did not aim at discrediting Shenzhen or Shenzhen leaders. Administrators should be courageous enough to listen to criticism,' the newspaper quoted Mr Yu as saying. Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said that while the meeting was a breakthrough, since most Chinese leaders considered criticism as a source of instability, it was also a public relations exercise promoting the administration as open and forwards-thinking. The meeting came as more than 2,400 people in the United States and Australia sent petitions to Chinese leaders urging the release of Liu Di, a prominent Internet poster detained for her views. The 22-year-old student has been formally charged with threatening state security.