China's Xi tells officials to be 'tolerant and patient' with online criticism

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also head of the central Internet security and informatization in China, told officials at a forum on April 19 to welcome and address online criticisms.
Ma Zhancheng | Xinhua | Getty Images

Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged the country's top officials to welcome online criticism, state media Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Speaking at a meeting with high level government and industry officials on Tuesday, Xi also encouraged Communist Party officials to use the internet to better understand the desires and grievances of Chinese citizens.

If the criticism was well-meant, even it sounded harsh, "we will not only welcome them, but also carefully study them for future references," Xi said, according to Xinhua.

Asking for "greater tolerance and patience toward internet users," Xi also called on officials to correct erroneous opinions promptly.

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Chinese premier Li Keqiang, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan and Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma were at the forum, Xinhua reported, as well as top brass from the People's Liberation Army.

The Chinese leader's comments come amid a changing economy in China that is displacing workers and stoking social unrest.

Although Xi's comments this week followed similar comments he made in December, when he said people should be able to speak freely online, they come against a recent backdrop of detention and arrests in China of people who expressed dissenting opinions, both online and offline.

Most recently, a Chinese dissident living in the U.S. said his parents and younger brother were taken away by local police as part of an investigation aimed at identifying the author of an open letter calling for Xi's resignation. Staff at the news website that published the letter in March were also reportedly detained.

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And earlier this year, several people in Hong Kong linked to a local publisher critical of Beijing's leader went missing. It later emerged some were in the custody of Chinese police and even offered televised confessions in which they claimed to have willingly traveled to China to assist various investigations.

Even those who are merely popular online do not appear to be safe from censorship.

Reports this week said that Papi Jiang, whose videos about issues concerning young Chinese women had attracted her a big fan base and a reported $2 million from investors, had been ordered by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television to stop recording and posting videos.

The regulator reportedly also ordered sites hosting content from the internet star to remove it, citing her use of swear words.

As Chinese Communist leaders grapple with governance in the digital age, authorities have recently sought to exert greater control over the internet, introducing new regulations that include .

At the event on Tuesday, Xi said China would enhance cyber security capabilities, as he urged Chinese internet firms to expand globally, Xinhua reported.

Xi also appeared to try to appease foreign technology firms, even as social media giants Facebook and Twitter remain blocked on mainland China.

"China's open door cannot and will not close. We welcome all foreign internet companies as long as they comply with laws in China," the Xinhua reported Xi as saying.

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