Saying Sorry in 140 (Mandarin) Characters: Chinese Cops Take to Micro-Blogs

A popular feed from Beijing officers already has hundreds of thousands of followers. Will it do anything to help their less-than-awesome public image?

Chinese Twitter

China may not be the most Internet-friendly country on Earth, but their police force is going online to cozy up to Chinese constituents--and they are reaching hundreds of thousands of disgruntled citizens.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that Chinese cops are opening microblogging accounts to help improve their public image. Specifically, many citizens consider the police force to be less than human and in need of serious oversight.

"We need to do the laundry, we need to babysit," said Liu Bo, a micro-blog manager in China's southern province of Guangdong.

Beijing police have a "Safe Beijing" micro-blog account (the host remains unknown) with over 330,000 followers. "We use micro-blogs to deal with emergencies, to hear public complaints, and to alert the public on popular crimes," account manager Zhao Feng told Xinhua.

We reported earlier this week on China's changing online landscape and how, for foreign businesses in particular, the online marketplace is still rife with risk. But for domestic users--let alone state-run agencies like the police force--micro-blogs could prove the perfect outlet to interact with the public. Reports indicate that police are making efforts to respond to inquiries via micro-blogs to assuage criticism that they are unresponsive to what the force deemed trivial complaints.

"We should master the use of micro-blogs to better interact with the people, to hear their complaints and criticism and to provide better services," said Minister of Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, in the Xinhua report.

If these new virtual olive branches don't do the trick, China's police forces could always take a page out of the playbook of other peace-keepers in the country and just hire more attractive officers.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user cote]

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1 Comments

  • Nicholas

    This is quite an interesting take. Using a microblogging site to handle PR for a public security service. Thats incredible that they already have 300,000 followers. Either a lot of people want to be informed or a lot of people have issues with them. Either way, social media is a great place to handle both. Just this morning we did a blog post on Social Media with some tips for 2011.

    One of the tips we covered was how some businesses are afraid to go into social media due to potential PR nightmares and how to handle criticism. What the Chinese Police Force is doing through social media is very interesting, and if done properly they can really boost their public perception. I'd like to see more of this in the US.

    -Nick