Chinese officials grilled on TV

Chinese officials grilled on TV

BEIJING - They call the shots in their various government departments, overseeing matters from water to traffic. But earlier this month, some officials of Wuhan city in central Hubei province found themselves in the line of fire inside a television studio instead.

"Have you ever visited our area?" a man fed up with the flooding in his area lobbed a question at Mr Zuo Shaobin, chief of the water bureau.

"No, I haven't," admitted Mr Zuo, whose face grew redder when the man walked up and gave him a pair of rain boots.

Such was the scene from Dian Shi Wen Zheng, a popular programme on Wuhan TV that has attracted wide attention in China for giving rise to new questions about how officials should be made accountable.

Started in 2011 when it was aired just once a year, the show has become such a hit that it is now run twice a year, with five episodes each time.

In each episode, six to eight officials go on the show to be quizzed about municipal matters by studio audiences drawn from Wuhan residents.

Officials have to respond on the spot to problems such as faulty traffic lights or dirty precincts, which are highlighted in undercover video segments pre-recorded by the show's producers.

At the end of the show, officials would make a solemn pledge to lick the problem.

The show has been a great hit: Its ratings are thrice those of prime-time dramas in Wuhan and it has spawned copycats from Nanjing city in the south-east to Yinchuan city in the north-west.

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