It’s common to hear of people ‘taking to the streets’ but less frequently of civil servants doing so. But according to China Youth Daily this is what the bureaucrats of Shenzhen have decided to do in an effort to win back public trust. Specifically they are shining shoes. Yes, on May 15 government officials could be found in the centre of the city wearing blue vests marked ‘Civil Service Volunteers’. The newspaper then watched as a man named Huang got a free shoe shine from an official named Ning. But that wasn’t the only value-added service on offer. In a tent on Huaqiang North Street, another line of citizen waited to be given jewellery appraisals, as well as advice on red wine and an offer on home appliance repairs. The new scheme sees civil servants volunteering to help the public on the 15th of each month and is part of Shenzhen’s goal to build a ‘City of Volunteers’ (for British readers this may sound eerily like David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ in outlook). The scheme has amazed locals and looks like an interesting PR response to enduring public anger at what is seen as an indifferent and often corrupt official mindset (see WiC153).
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