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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China’s tweeting cops blog to keep peace

December 8, 2011

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/758c2b6a-1647-11e1-a691-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1fil0Ej3J December 5, 2011 Financial Times By Kathrin Hille in Beijing Bo Shide spends all day and many nights on the internet. But he is not the average Chinese “netizen”. This young Beijing policeman is a member of the municipal force’s microblogging team. Around the clock, at least one and at most four officers read and write on Sina Weibo, a Chinese substitute for Twitter, under the tag “Ping’an [Safe or Peaceful] Beijing”. More video China’s tweeting cops are part of a vast project: making the voice of the government heard in the online cacophony that has become the country’s most important public sphere. Sina Weibo’ latest statistics show that it now has 250m registered users, while its rival Tencent Weibo claims 300m. Although only a fraction of these are thought to be active users every day, the microblogs have become the most important news source for millions of Chinese – thereby often obliging the state media to follow. In its most important annual policy meeting last month, the ruling Communist party made clear that it was determined to reclaim at least part of its propaganda authority. Sina Weibo has launched a government edition and, so far, close to 19,000 officials and government departments have started tweeting, according to a report published by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai last month. With more than 5,000 accounts, the police have been the most enthusiastic adopters. In the west, Twitter features accounts such as CambsCops – “the official pages for [Britain’s] Cambridgeshire Constabulary” – and NewYorkFBI. But in China – without general elections or a free press, and where extrajudicial detentions and police brutality are widespread – the police’s presence on Sina Weibo is a much more delicate affair. Social media have a far greater relative weight, both for citizens to air their views and for the government to gauge public opinion. Amid concerns that a slowing economy might provoke social unrest, Zhou Yongkang, China’s security chief, warned local officials at the weekend that they needed to find better methods of “social management”. The euphemism can include everything from better internet censorship, and strategic policing of violent protests, to a better social safety net. Yang Jingbo, another member of the police microblogging team, says one of the main goals of their actions is to find out what people think about the force and to improve its image where there is a need. For the officers from Ping’an Beijing, that has been a challenge. “In the beginning, we put our press releases out there in bits and pieces, but people found it was too official,” says Mr Yang. “We had to learn to come up with things closer to their lives.” A recent post by officer Bo featured a glowing account of how officer Ma, from a police station in southern Beijing, chased nine buses for 30km – stopping and checking each one – to reclaim the granddaughter of a scatterbrained woman who had left the little girl on the bus. The anecdote reaped 147 mostly positive comments. One said: “That is what a good people’s policeman should be like!”
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