Starting from June 1, internet police in 50 localities – including both metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai as well as small, impoverished city such as Bijie in southwest China’s Guizhou Province – will officially launch their own accounts on popular social networking services including Weibo and Wechat.
Working 24/7, the cyber police teams are tasked to sniff out “illegal and harmful information on the internet, deter and prevent cyber crimes and improper words and deeds online, publish case reports and handle public tip-offs.”
They will give warning to those involved in minor offences and help investigate law violations in more serious cases, the ministry said.
This new public engagement follows recent calls by Xi Jinping to “demonstrate positive energy in purifying cyberspace” in what Beijing Foreign Studies University’s Qiao Mu has described as “a different, softer approach from the usual crackdowns.” Quartz’s Lily Kuo observed some of the fledgeling accounts’ maiden flights, and their reception by web users:
Already over two dozen accounts from Shanghai to Xinjiang and Tibet have opened on the microblog Weibo. The internet police in Fuzhou in the southeastern province of Fujian greeted bloggers by saying, “Hello dear netizens…Hope you all can support me and understand me! Follow me!” (So far the account has 20 followers.) Hebei’s internet police wrote in its greeting, “Building a harmonious society on the internet needs everyone’s effort. Please calm down and communicate politely.”
[…] Chinese bloggers welcomed their new minders with both irony and criticism, addressing them as “internet police uncle.” One Weibo user dared others to criticize China’s late leader Mao Zedong on the forum, writing sarcastically, “Discontent with Chairman Mao? Come and have a chat.” Another wrote (registration required), “Is this not controlling the minds and words of the people? If we keep going like this, how are we any different from North Korea?” [Source]
The new accounts also represent forces from the provinces and regions of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hubei, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, and Liaoning; the municipalities of Chongqing and Tianjin; and the cities of Anshan, Beihai, Chengdu, Dalian, Daqing, Fushun, Harbin, Guangzhou, Guilin, Handan, Hangzhou, Hefei, Jinan, Liuzhou, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Nantong, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Quanzhou, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Shiyan, Taiyuan, Tangshan, Weifang, Wuhan, Xi’an, Xiamen, Xuzhou, Yichang, Zhengzhou, and Zibo.