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China microbloggers ask: Where has president gone?

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 8:20am
(AP) -- Where is President Hu Jintao?

That's the question online supporters were asking Tuesday after a user account for the stiff and formal politician disappeared from a Twitter-like microblogging site two days after it was discovered.

"No matter when Brother Tao shows up, I will wait for him every day," said one posting on the People's Daily microblogging site, using an informal way to refer to the president.

It was one of more than a thousand supportive postings on the site run by the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. Hu's profile attracted more than 7,000 followers on Sunday, when it was first discovered, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

The creation of the president's account may have been an oversight by the microblogging site, which launched on Feb. 1. Hu had previously registered with a People's Daily message forum when he conducted an online chat with citizens in 2008, and those users were automatically given microblog accounts, the site administrator said in a posting.

There were no updates or postings on Hu's account before it vanished late Monday, media reports said.

"Microblog accounts for (message forum) guests who have not personally confirmed them will all be closed," the People's Daily Web site said in a notice posted Tuesday, without specifically referring to Hu. A woman at the Web site's marketing department said they had no further comment.

China's staid leaders have only dipped their toes into the country's vibrant and boisterous online world.

Hu held his first and only online chat in 2008, during which he answered three questions: Do you use the Internet? What do you read on the Web? Do you review suggestions and proposals from online users?

An online chat with Premier Wen Jiabao last year was more extensive, during which the popular leader fielded 30 questions that touched on topics such as unemployment, the wealth gap and social justice.

China boasts the world's largest online population of 384 million Internet users, though content is tightly controlled. The government blocks material deemed subversive or pornographic, including foreign social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and the popular video-sharing site YouTube.

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