SHENZHEN - A few days ago, the city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, announced it was setting up a voluntary force of 500 public servants to provide more and better public services to its residents. The services include free haircuts, wine quality identification, food safety knowledge, and electronics repair services. There are also free shoe shines.
The announcement prompted an intense public discussion. Some people were enthusiastic about the project but most were just downright angry.
How could they dislike such a generous initiative? It all about semantics - and a general wariness when it comes to authorities. In Cantonese, the phrase shoe polishing is the same as patting the horses bottom, meaning to flatter or kiss-up to someone. Shenzhen citizens are saying that the patting has fallen on the horses leg, which means they do not appreciate the municipalitys idea at all.
A majority believe that if civil servants did their jobs properly and politely, people would be grateful. For them, this shoe polishing idea is just another political show.
Its not at all surprising that Shenzhen authorities received such a hostile reaction. On the surface one might think the public is just fed up with bureaucracy, but the underlying cause is much deeper. This is about accumulated frustrations and dissatisfaction with public service.
Last week, the biggest news was about local farms in Shenzhen feeding psychotropic drugs to chickens. The Chinese press publishes food security stories almost every day. The vital problems associated with daily life, along with school and hospital shortages, are in strong contrast to the privileged situation of public servants and the rampant corruption of officials.
According to reports, the voluntary force initiative comes from Shenzhens Political Work Department, a political agency under the control of Chinas Central Military Commission. In an Internet and market economy where Chinese peoples civic conscience is awakening, such initiatives just prove how obsolete and ridiculous the authorities are.
China is in a transformation process, and social contradictions are highlighted by serious problems. If the Political Work Departments cadres need to prove their worth, they have to move into the 21st century and deal with real problems. Narrowing the public servants distance with the masses by having a few volunteers polish peoples shoes is, to put it lightly, like an adult trying to calm a crying child with candy.
Read the full story in Chinese by Hua Tic
Photo - J Solomon
*This is a digest item, not a direct translation