|Tibetan county reaches out via micro blogs|
Zayu county, located in Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, has managed to connect with tourists around the world despite its remote location through the magic of micro-blogging.
Wang Ruizhi, a local government official in the county's village of Zhala, opened an account for the village on Sina Weibo, the country's most popular micro-blogging site, in 2011. He said he has updated it every day since then, posting information about activities, weather and tourism in his village.
Ni Yong, the county's deputy Party secretary, took a cue from Wang's efforts to promote his village and worked to encourage other villages to create their own online presence. To date, 15 of the county's 96 villages have opened accounts on Sina Weibo, Ni said.
"Although roads and rail do not reach Zayu, information about the county must be spread," Ni said.
The county's rough terrain often causes transportation disruption and snow sometimes traps local residents in their homes. The villages' Weibo accounts, therefore, are particularly useful in helping the county maintain communication with the outside world, Ni said.
Village officials have been tasked with updating the Weibo accounts. The county's publicity department requires no fewer than 10 posts each month for each village account, according to Jampa Yudron, deputy head of the department.
"Weibo can help us present the work we have done, as well as share information and resources to attract investors and tourists," Yudron said.
Zhala is a two-day drive from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Although the walnuts, peaches and other agricultural products harvested in Zhala could be sold for a great deal of money in the city, poor transportation infrastructure prevents local farmers from selling their products elsewhere.
"What I want to do most is to help local residents sell their agricultural products through Weibo," said Wang.
The micro blog accounts have not only allowed Zayu county to make its voice heard, but have also allowed it to hear the voices of others. Wang recalled a Weibo user with the user name Ye Zihang Henry who contacted him in May to ask about donating clothes and food to local residents. Wang gave the user an address and received a parcel containing the donations on June 19.
"Seeing smiles on the faces of the Tibetan elders and children with food and clothes made me feel happy. I will go to Tibet again and visit Zayu if I have the chance," Ye commented on a photo posted by Wang on the village's Weibo account.
Ni said the county micro blogs allow villagers to get a glimpse of the outside world
"I can obtain information about other villages through the text and pictures they post. Other staff members can directly communicate with each other through private messages and comments," Ni said.
Wei Zejun, another official from Zayu county's publicity department, said the county's residents manage to keep up with the micro blogs through their mobile phone networks, as conventional networks have yet to reach the county.
"In fact, local residents don't know much about Weibo. We will send village officials to teach them how to use Weibo and help them to understand local policies," Ni added.
Jin Jianbin, a professor at Tsinghua University, said the micro blogs have played a significant role in facilitating communication and exchanges between the villages of Zayu and other areas.
Jin said the local government should request more support to boost literacy among the county residents in order to help them better understand the micro blogs.