Protecting the public 140 words at a time

Updated: 2012-08-03 02:08

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Millions of fans following police micro blogs

Public security authorities are most influential of all the government departments with micro blogs on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like website, according to an analysis.

Authorities nationwide began signing up for Sina accounts two years ago, and there are now 25,866 official micro blogs, 8,583 of them administered by police authorities.

According to a new report by Sina, four public security micro blogs are on the list of the 10 government micro blogs with the most followers.

"The work done by public security authorities is closely tied to people's everyday lives," said Shan Xuegang, an expert on social media who worked on the analysis report. Shan is a researcher at the website of People's Daily, the Communist Party of China's flagship newspaper.

"That's why their micro blogs can get great attention and attract many followers."

Protecting the public 140 words at a time

Chen Hang, an officer of the Mawei district border defense brigade in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, shows local primary students how to update a micro blog. Chen runs the official micro blog for his brigade. Lin Shanchuan / Xinhua

During the heavy rainstorm and subsequent floods on July 21, Beijing police published constant updates on its micro blog about dangerous roads and the rescue efforts.

Zhao Feng, a publicity official at the city's public security bureau who manages the account, said he received hundreds of thousands messages from residents asking the police for help, as well as with tips about the places hardest hit by the downpour.

"We posted 59 times on Sina Weibo that night, hoping to explain traffic and rescue situation to the public," he said, adding that the 110 police hotline received more than 8,000 calls that night, causing a jam on the line.

But it was the micro blog that was able to send important information out and was not affected by the rain, helping residents and the police, Zhao said.

"We gave rescue information to different departments in our bureau, aiming to integrate police resources and give residents the help needed," he said.

Five police officers currently work on the bureau's micro blog, which was launched in August 2010 and now has almost 3.5 million followers.

"We often invite followers to face-to-face talks with us, hoping they can give us suggestions and understand more about our work," Zhao added.

Public security departments in other cities have also created their own ways to improve communication with residents and their effectiveness.

Sun Haidong, an officer responsible for the micro blog of the Jinan public security bureau in Shandong province, said the bureau has established a team of officers specialized in various fields to address followers' varying problems. "Although we have only four part-time officers to update the micro blog, we are able to solve problems in a timely manner," he said, adding they have invited senior police officers and experts on fire control and laws to join the group.

"We don't focus on the amount of followers. Instead, we focus more on solving residents' problems effectively," he said.

Unlike the Beijing and Jinan police micro blogs, which are run by police publicity officials, the Guangzhou police micro blog is operated by police officers in the central control room, through which it can directly mobilize officers to respond.

Meanwhile, 4,973 police officers nationwide use their private Sina Weibo accounts to interact with residents of their jurisdictions — these are about a quarter of the micro blogs used by Chinese public servants in their own names, the report said.

A total of 19,155 Chinese officials have their own micro blog accounts on Sina Weibo.

Luo Jian, 38, a police officer in Beijing's Fengtai district, has nearly 7,500 followers on the micro blog he began on Jan 8.

"I like to try new things," he said. "I found the micro blog popular and could broadcast widely, so I decided to get one to pass on safety information to residents.

"I post some regulations that might have something to do with residents' lives on the micro blog and hope my followers forward them, because that way, more people will know," he said.

However, Wang Yibo, a police officer who operates the Shanghai railway police's micro blog, said there is insufficient investment in the micro blog and sometimes updates have to wait until the next day because of a personnel shortage.

"If residents have emergencies to report, they'd be better off making a phone call to the police," Wang said, adding that people can say what exactly happened on phones, but the 140-word micro blog is too short to explain the situation clearly to the police.

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