BEIJING, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- China's on-line population -- at more than 400 million -- is the largest in the world. Their conversations cover almost every corner of the country and give an insight into the popular issues of the day.
The following are topics on the Chinese Internet from the last week:
SERVE THE LEADER
Chairman Mao once called on every Chinese to "serve the people," but a traffic policeman in southwest China was blunter when he openly declared that his obligation was to "serve the leader."
An anonymous TV journalist in Chengdu City said he and his colleagues were at Shuangliu Sports Stadium Tuesday to cover a comic festival when a local policeman approached them.
The policeman hit the windows of the media van and repeatedly demanded that they move immediately.
"Clear off! The leader's convoy is arriving," the policeman surnamed Liang allegedly said. "Who the hell are you? I am here only to serve the leader. Their safety is of top priority."
Liang was suspended when his district police bureau came under fire after the journalist posted the anecdote on popular on-line forum Tianyaclub.cn.
"Liang lost control of his temper and used inappropriate language on duty. He has been punished," said a comment posted on the site by the district police bureau Thursday, in response to the public outrage.
But many said Liang voiced the true mentality of many people on the government payroll, and nobody should be punished for speaking the truth when the problem was caused by the common practices of government officials.
A young policeman in central China's scenic Yellow Mountain plunged to his death while escorting a university hiking team off the mountain in the dark.
But public sorrow at the death of Zhang Ninghai, who was just 24, turned to anger when netizens learned the 18 student hikers from Shanghai's prestigious Fudan University had ventured out at night to dodge entrance fees.
"We do a lot of night-time rescues. We are also human. We have our families. We plead with every visitor to the Yellow Mountain to learn from Zhang's death and avoid taking risks," said one of Zhang's colleagues in a comment posted on-line.
Reports that the students showed little remorse fueled the controversy Friday. None of them attended Zhang's funeral and they allegedly responded coldly to his death.
One of the students was caught discussing on Fudan's on-line forum how to protect the reputation of the university's hiking society. Another allegedly said Zhang was responsible for his own death because he demanded the hikers descend in the dark.
Netizens lashed out at the ingratitude and arrogance of the students. University officials defended the students, saying the netizens' take on the story was partial and unfair.
Fudan University is an elite school supplying the government, academic institutes and businesses with an army of talented graduates each year.
"The students are cold-blooded. They study in one of the country's best universities and may become social elites in the future. Can we be certain they are the nation's hope?" one netizen asked.
ALMOST A FREE LUNCH
Haute cuisine for pennies? At a time when food prices are soaring, government officials in east China are under fire for eating too well and too cheaply in their staff canteen.
The furore began when a price list of dishes in an unspecified Nanjing city government office canteen was posted on the Internet on Wednesday.
A pot of chicken soup with Chinese herb "dangsen" cost just 2.5 yuan and a plate of sauteed white gourd with seafood 0.5 yuan.
China's food prices have been soaring this year. The consumer price index (CPI), the country's main gauge of inflation, rose more than 5 percent year-on-year in November.
"I am speechless after reading the price list," said one netizen, claiming that a half kilo of apples or broccoli cost 8 yuan on the market in Nanjing.
The exclusive canteen offers government diners a selection of 120 dishes a week.
The price list was taken off the Internet after being bombarded with hits. Officials with the city government said they had to remove it because it was misleading.
But netizens were sure they were not misled. China used to provide cradle-to-grave care for all its workers in a system known as the "iron rice bowl," but in the market economic reforms that began in the late 1970s, the system was gradually dismantled. Remnants of it are still enjoyed by some government employees.