by Xinhua Writers Yao Yuan, Yuan Suwen and Ji Shaoting
BEIJING, June 28 (Xinhua) -- When Wang Haiding applied for police college, he dreamed of becoming a heroic crimebuster like one in a detective movie. But every hero story has a twist.
Wang became a police officer, but his job today is mostly microblogging. He is now perhaps the most popular policeman in China. On "Jiangning Gong'an Online" at Sina Weibo, netizens post problems and rumors to seek his advice and his often hilarious remarks.
Typical queries go like these. A passenger on a bus was hypnotized by a tap on the shoulder and revealed his bank PIN to a conman. Or, a more lurid version, "I woke up to find one of my kidneys was gone."
Wang has his way of busting such urban myths: "If someone had such powerful mind-control skills, he should try tapping on the shoulder of Bill Gates, not a nobody on a bus," he wrote.
"Organ transplants require a lengthy matching process. A kidney dies only hours after removal. You can do nothing with one stolen from a stranger, except stir fry it." Pork kidney is a popular dish on the Chinese menu.
Surprisingly, this waggish microblog is not personal. It belongs to Jiangning district police in Nanjing where Wang works, and is leading a national campaign to add a human touch to the stern online publicity of Chinese local governments.
The microblog has over 640,000 followers. It is so popular that Wang regularly has to remind his followers to dial 110 first in case of emergency, before posting to him.
The blog's fame is partially due to Wang's playing cute, a tactic of cool Internet language and silly images of cuddly dogs that he posts to lighten his crime stories or simply to say, "Good morning!"
For Wang, 29, "playing cute" is not what the microblog is really about. "The essence of my work is to build trust [between the public and police]," Wang told Xinhua in an interview.
Indeed, a considerable part of Wang's microblog deals with everyday brushes with the police like, "Why do I look so ugly on my ID card?"; misunderstandings of police action; and false rumors like "fake telescopes shoot narcotic needles".
"The gesture matters. You can't just declare something as false -- people may not believe it. They'll ask why. So instead of making statements, I explain to them using previous cases and rational analysis," he said.
Online rumors are a major concern since China embraced the era of Internet, but government efforts generally have poor PR finesse and lack of public trust.
Shen Yang, professor with Tsinghua University and a longtime Internet observer, thinks local governments tend to be conservative in their microblog management due to a lack of institutional incentives.
"If they succeed, all they get is public approval, but if they make mistakes, the consequences can be disastrous," Shen says.
Change is underway. More government microblogs have switched from being one-way information pipelines to platforms for public interaction.
"They've put on a more personal style. They voice their opinions on public issues and use vivid Internet language," Shen says.
For Wang, one change is that he is invited to give lectures in other cities where authorities wish to copy Jiangning's success.
National fame has also brought his superiors' support. What was initially a part-time job now consumes the overwhelming majority of his time. "I've gained over a dozen pounds recently," he said.
And what he has gained is not just weight: when the Jiangning microblog celebrated its third birthday in March, Wang put aside his signature jokes and instead posted an emotional letter thanking the public for their support.
It was forwarded over 10,000 times, outnumbering some of his funniest jokes. Many netizens expressed their sincere thanks, while others fancied the handsome portrait of Wang attached to the post.
"There were remarks saying the microblog has given them a fresh impression of the Chinese police. I was very touched when I read them," Wang said.
(Ye Qian has also contributed to the story.)