Seems in an effort to show the government cared about the concerns of the people of Dongguan in southern China, the deputy director of health went online to answer their posted questions.
Except, he ignored the pointed questions and spent a lot of time answering the softball questions sent by a questioner with the user name of “Witty on Dongguan.”
The only problem was that “Witty” was — and this was discovered by Chinese netizens poking around — none other than the press relations officer for the health bureau.
After the ruse was exposed, the press officer saw nothing wrong with what he did. “I’m a web user too, and I have a right to ask my own questions.” (Of course, missing the whole point of the exercise.)
This episode reminded me of the case of the mayor of West Valley, Utah, who decided the local media weren’t reporting enough good news about the city so he took on an alias and filed his own stories as a freelancer.
And this guy went even further to quote himself in the stories. (At least the Dongguan official was only dealing with one of his lackies.)
We expect to see government officials in China to not only show disdain for independent media and to undermine efforts by the people to have a serious dialog with their elected leaders. What is really disturbing is the Utah situation. That an elected leader would think there is nothing wrong with subverting the concept of free and independent media is appalling.
So this week’s Local-Global Connection Award goes to the deputy director of health in Dongguan and to the West Valley, Utah, mayor for showing that contempt for independent media is not limited to one place.