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Words Matter: Not all approve of government use of "customer service" language

08-16-2011 15:00 BJT

HANGZHOU, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The trend of governmental departments and the judiciary to use "customer service" type language in an attempt to change their ice-cold image is causing some controversy.

The Zongpu People's Tribunal under the People's Court of Fengyang County of Anhui Province addresses litigants on its official Weibo (Twitter) account as follows:

"Dear Litigants, When we tell you to attend a court session, please arrive on time. Otherwise, we cannot see you, let alone know what is on your mind, and your rights may not be properly protected."

Wang Shili, presiding judge of the tribunal, admits they borrowed the style of speaking of vendors on Taobao.com, China's leading online shopping website, in an effort to bring the court closer to the public.

"By using colloquial language in a polite tone, businesses can instantly put their customers at ease, and because what we deal with every day are mostly community disputes in rural areas, we don't want to emphasize procedures to a degree that may trigger harmful effects. We don't want ordinary people to fear courts or judges," Wang said.

But this approach has drawn criticism as some believe the informal and, some say frivolous style, has damaged the image of the law and the court, which is supposed to be serious and rigorous.

Tong Zongjin, a professor with China University of Political Science and Law, said on his Weibo that the court has mistaken frivolity for being kind to the public.

This isn't the first time that people feel stunned by an unorthodox official statement from governmental and judicial authorities.

The Jixie Police Station of Chongzhou City in southwestern Sichuan Province attempted to persuade a fugitive via its Weibo to turn surrender to authorities. A message from July 15 reads: "Dear Fugitive, if you surrender yourself, we will act as chauffeur, feed you for free and provide you a free physical examination."

Some have doubts over the use of "Taobao" style. A netizen identified as "lixiaofo" says he gets goose bumps when he reads "dear" in an online shop because it's only a disguise for business greed, and it's not at all appropriate to be used by the government.


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