China police use micro-blogs 'to connect with public'

A man smokes while using a computer at an Internet cafe in Shanxi province
Image caption China has 450 million internet users, according to official figures

Hundreds of police across China have set up micro-blogging accounts in an effort to improve relations with the tech-savvy public, state media report.

The force is seeking to "ease tensions usually caused by improper handling of complaints", Xinhua said.

Twitter, which enables users to post 140-character messages, is banned in China but similar Chinese sites have attracted millions of users.

China has 450 million internet users, according to official figures.

At least 500 police bureaux have set up micro-blogs and are sending out messages, the People's Daily reported.

'Fiery' conversations

The "Safe Beijing" micro-blog, which shows a cartoon of a smiling Beijing policeman giving the thumbs-up, has nearly 330,000 followers.

The latest message (number 1,482) warns that blocking or hiding vehicle licence-plates intentionally is illegal and could result in a fine and licence penalty points.

Previous messages include a notice about roadworks, accompanied by a map, and a warning about burglaries.

It alerts citizens to a spate of break-ins overnight in one-storey courtyard-type houses.

"Please beware," it says, "close windows and doors securely, don't leave valuables around." There are 24 retweets of this and 21 comments.

In the eastern city of Jinan, police are using micro-blogs to collect public opinion on issues such as traffic laws, visa applications and fire prevention.

Officials quoted by Xinhua described the online conversations as sometimes "fiery".

The proliferation of such sites follows a call last month by China's top police official Meng Jianzhu for police to embrace new media to "to hear [citizens'] complaints and criticism, and to provide better services".

News of police misdeeds can prompt heated online debate, as many Chinese view police negatively amid reports of harsh, corrupt or flippant treatment.

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