'Direct line' to government draws Chinese netizens

File image of Chinese President Hu Jintao More than 16,000 people posted messages for Chinese President Hu Jintao

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Thousands of Chinese people have posted comments on an internet forum that promised to send their messages direct to the government.

Four days after the site was launched by the state-run People's Daily, more than 27,000 messages had been posted.

Many of the posts focused on housing or money worries, as well as the issue of corruption.

Others tackled subjects such as education and healthcare.

The forum, called "Direct Line to Zhongnanhai", was set up on Wednesday. Zhongnanhai is the compound where top government leaders live and work.

Separate sections were set up for people to communicate with different political leaders.

By 1800 GMT on Sunday, President Hu Jintao's had drawn more than 16,000 comments, while Premier Wen Jiabao's had another 11,000, Chinese media reports said.

'Can't afford a wife'

Many urged the government to deal more effectively with corruption.

"Government officials' corruption is the root to every problem. It's the basic duty for the party to manage and control its officials," said one post.

House prices were another topic, with one commentator stating: "I can't afford a house, and I can't afford a wife."

Another said the government had to help people find a place to settle down.

"This means the gap between the rich and the poor should be narrowed, which can help stabilise society. It also means housing prices should be lowered, so people can have a place to stay."

Education was a hot topic, with several posts calling for the quality of teaching to be improved.

Others wanted incentives for teachers to stay in rural areas, and for education to become more affordable.

"The government provides subsidies and loans to help the poor to go to school," said one person.

"But it's very difficult to actually be qualified for that loan. I tried several times but still cannot take the loan to pay for my kid's school fees."

Some posts related to more specific gripes.

"The government should ban commercial advertisements on medicine and medical equipment," one person wrote. "Some ads dramatically overstated the curing effects, while concealing the negative side effects."

It is not clear how exactly the internet forum will convey the messages to the relevant government officials.

And, according to Human Rights in China, there are 26 restrictions setting out what type of comment is or is not permitted on the site.

But it is not the first time Chinese netizens have rushed to take a chance to communicate directly with their government.

Last year the government set up a website for citizens to report corrupt officials. This proved so popular that it crashed shortly after launching.

For the last two years Premier Wen Jiabao has also taken part in online chats during the National People's Congress, responding to questions and comments from Chinese citizens.

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