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Chinese Lawmakers Get Their Own Blogs

China's government is trying to boost public interest in its figurehead parliament and its companion advisory body by setting up Web logs for members as they meet this week.

Called "bo ke" in Chinese, blogs are popular with young people despite strict censorship rules.

In one posting, National People's Congress delegate Zhou Hongyu wrote that serving in the legislature is a way to "fulfill my duty and be a better deputy."

"I hope to collect the wishes of the people, listen to their will and experience the people's lives," wrote Zhou, a representative from the southern province of Hunan who advocates education reform.

The patriotically named "Strong Country Blog" is run by the People's Daily, the newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

"Its open attitude and attention to the expression of opinion reflects the voice of the people," says a handbook given out by the People's Daily.

The blogs are housed at http://blog.people.com.cn, which also features public reaction and "hot" essays and discussion topics.

So far, only eight of more than 5,000 delegates to the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference have been approved to post comments online, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Tang Weihong, who runs the site.

But many more have turned in applications, Tang said.

"There is a demand for such channels of communication," she was quoted as saying.

In the hulking Great Hall of the People, where the lawmakers meet, dozens of computers sit in the lobby for delegates to use — another sign of China's growing dependency on the Internet.

On Sunday, people were using the computers to look up information ranging from ping pong scores to lawmaker profiles.

"This all represents China's technological improvements," said Wang Guifeng, who oversees the information section. "The computers first appeared during the sessions in 1998. Next year, we are considering a similar set up at the hotels were the delegates are staying in."

NPC representative Pan Shiyi, a Beijing developer, keeps a blog detailing his childhood — complete with photos of his home village — and some of his media appearances.

Pan also airs his opinions on China's growing income gap between the rich and the poor — an issue the leadership has promised to focus on amid rising rural discontent. He points readers to a link to an essay he wrote entitled "I disagree with new city construction that separates the rich from the poor."

Zhao Lihong, a Shanghai poet and CPPCC member, called on his blog for the "evaluation of the masses."

"What we should be concerned about is the feelings of the ordinary people," wrote Zhao. The poet said the CPPCC opened in "beautiful weather conditions, full of spring colors."

While most entries faithfully toe the party line, there are a few surprisingly prurient highlights.

Under the heading "latest blog photos," are five women in black and white lingerie. Captions read "Such a charming photo is easy on the eyes" and "This beautiful lady is wonderful."

One posting, written under the pseudonym "the son of Qian Jiang," describes the author's drinking experiences, including one instance where five bottles of expensive liquor are consumed at the cost of 2,000 yuan, (US$250, euro200).

The posting finishes: "This is the end of the nonsense."