Shanghai embraces Internet to engage citizens

Updated: 2013-03-04 07:48

By He Wei (China Daily)

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The legislative process has taken on a new look by embracing the Internet as a channel to engage citizens with hot social issues.

Lawmakers in Shanghai began an unusual online discussion with netizens on Sunday, two days before the inauguration of the 12th National People's Congress on Tuesday.

The move aims to quench people's thirst for information about the NPC by clarifying the government's agenda and addressing their needs, said Yin Yicui, deputy Party chief of Shanghai and an NPC deputy from the Shanghai delegation to the country's top legislature.

"We would like to include citizens in the government's decision-making process by helping us identify the key areas for future legislation," she said.

Seven NPC deputies from the delegation, including Yin, joined the two-hour discussion on Sunday afternoon on, a leading city Web portal. Netizens submitted more than 500 inquiries in 13 areas, ranging from inflation, income distribution to transportation and medical services.

Yin said the 59-member delegation is more fairly represented this year by having fewer officials and more blue-collar workers. Two NPC deputies are former migrant workers.

The delegation's activities are also getting slimmer, simpler and greener by involving fewer staff members, shorter speeches, modest dinners and less printing, she added.

The city's bid to become an international financial center has drawn the attention of young talented professionals. Yang Maijun, general manager of the Shanghai Futures Exchange and an NPC deputy, said the municipal government will make turning the city into an international clearance center for renminbi by 2015 its top goal.

"We will continue to uphold this goal by enhancing the legal system and meanwhile take advantage of its other ambitions as a trade and shipping center," he said.

Shanghai will need to combat skyrocketing housing prices, which could deter financial professionals from settling down, said Li Lin, an academician with Chinese Academy of Sciences and a lawmaker from Shanghai.

People are also calling for urgent reforms of medical services for the elderly. Jia Weiping, head of the Shanghai No 6 People's Hospital, said measures are being taken to shorten the registration time for people with chronic diseases and encouraged large hospitals to run community clinics.

"I think such discussions are meaningful and practical, because they dismiss in real time people's concerns about what the lawmakers do during the annual gathering," said Peng Di, an IT consultant who is originally from Sichuan province and now works in Shanghai's Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park.

"Also I'm glad they brought up the issue of housing prices. It has become a headache for people like me," he said.

With the growth of the Internet, the online community is now a crucial component of civil society, said Zhang Zhao'an, an NPC deputy and an economist. "The government should learn to interact with new social organizations more often and properly guide its development."

(China Daily 03/04/2013 page8)