China asks foreigners to put questions to Premier Li

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s central government has for the first time asked foreigners what they would like to ask Premier Li Keqiang as he prepares his annual work report for next March’s meeting of the country’s largely rubber-stamp parliament.

China's Premier Li Keqiang speaks during the opening ceremony of the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai, China November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song

China has previously solicited questions from ordinary Chinese people for Li, which can be submitted online, but is now unusually using English to offer foreigners the same opportunity.

“Are you living, working, studying, traveling in China or doing business with Chinese companies? Do you want to have your say about what is happening in China, how it is making government policies and how you are benefiting?” the government said in an English statement on its website.

“Premier Li Keqiang wants to hear your views and include them in China’s policy making,” it said, next to a cartoon picture of a smiling Li.

“Individuals, businesses and other organizations with an interest in or expert knowledge on any issue can help shape the government work report in 2017. The Chinese government welcomes and appreciates your participation.”

Underneath, foreigners are invited to offer comments on areas such as the environment, tax and “internet integration”.

A few comments, apparently some from foreigners judging by their names, are also shown, though nothing on sensitive issues like human rights or censorship.

“I hope the government could do more to curb pollution,” wrote someone identified as Adam.

“Cut more administrative fees and licenses,” said another person called Gary.

The announcement appeared on the website on Tuesday.

Big Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have thriving foreigner communities, and the government is also trying to attract highly qualified foreigners to live longer-term in China, especially those with science qualifications.

But it has run into problems with the country’s notorious smog and tight internet controls putting some people off. The government has also had limited success introducing a U.S.-like “green card” system allowing people to become permanent residents.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel