Officials' alienation from people intolerable

Updated: 2012-11-05 23:08


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BEIJING - The government of a central China city has been left red-faced again just as it was trying to restore reputation from the shame of not providing desks for students at public schools. This time, some of its officials gave false email addresses to the public.

The government of Macheng, in Hubei province, recently required all the major officials to publicize their email addresses on the government website to strengthen their ties with the public.

This is a good way for officials to communicate with the public and listen to their opinions. But people were surprised to discover that 11 of the officials' email addresses left on the website do not really exist.

Releasing these fake addresses means the officials are reluctant or not willing to communicate with the people, let alone listen to their views and help them through difficulties.

Their behavior defies the good intentions of the government to tighten their relations with the public and damages people's trust in the authorities.

It seems they did not learn their lesson from a school desk scandal in September, when 3,000 primary school students in Shunhe Town were forced to carry desks and chairs from their homes to school due to a shortage of supplies.

The incident ignited uproar concerning the government's ignorance to the rural children's basic needs. The government's image was badly affected even though it raised 5 million yuan ($792,619) to buy the furniture for the children soon after the scandal was exposed.

Publicizing the officials' email addresses was a good chance for the government to regain trust. The officials should not take it as a formal assignment but treat it as an opportunity to maintain close contact with citizens and help them solve their problems.

It's also a golden chance for them to listen to people's comments on government's work and make improvements accordingly.

However, their sheer indifference to the public's needs smears the government's image and cause severe negative consequences.

In July last year, Chinese President Hu Jintao, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, warned that the Party is in growing danger of becoming divorced from the people.

In fact, local officials in many provinces of the country have been asked to visit households, schools and enterprises on a regular basis in recent years to listen to public opinion and maintain close contacts with the people.

It's commendable that the Macheng government ordered these officials to correct their non-existent email addresses on Sunday and vowed to accept supervision from the media and public.

To make this new policy really work, though, the Macheng government also needs to set up an evaluation mechanism to ensure mails from the public are duly handled. Those who do not reply, proving themselves reluctant to help people solve their problems, should be punished.

Maintaining close ties with the people gives the CPC, the ruling party of China, its biggest political asset while alienation from the people poses the greatest risk to the Party after it has gained political power. Such scandals as have recently hit Macheng must not happen again.