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'Fake votes' cast in tourism day poll

China's population is 1.3 billion, of which approximately 300 million are Internet users. But an online poll to solicit public opinion on a date for "national tourism day" has received a staggering 4.2 billion votes, giving rise to speculation that local governments are "forging fake support" for their recommendations.

Jiangsu Province's Wuxi, wants the national tourism day to fall on March 29, the day famous Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tourist Xu Xiake started traveling.

More than 5,000 volunteers in Ninghai county, Zhejiang Province, advocate for national tourism day to be held on May 19, the day Xu Xiake, a famous ancient explorer, began his adventure from the county. [Photo: People's Daily]

Zhejiang province's Ninghai, suggested May 19, when Xu started writing his travel books.

Meanwhile, Hunan province, proposed Dec 26, the day late Chairman Mao Zedong was born.

And Sichuan province, wants the day to fall on either July 5 or 15, when prominent leader Deng Xiaoping made important speeches about tourism.

Wuxi is the birthplace of Xu, who first mentioned Ninghai in his maiden travel book, while Chairman Mao was born in Hunan province and Deng in Sichuan.

The China Nation Tourism Administration's (CNTA) had asked sina.com, a national news portal, to conduct a poll to seek public opinion before Wednesday.

However, the poll, which received votes amounting to three times the population of China, had only added to the complications.

"But eventually, the decision to select a date and whether or not it will be a public holiday lies with the State Council," a CNTA official surnamed Shen told China Daily.

According to media reports, Wuxi and Ninhang have "fabricated votes" to make their respective recommendations win.

"It is turning out to be an ugly show," said Zhang Hongzheng, a Beijing resident. "It's really a shame they (local governments) are faking a public poll to prove support for their recommended dates."

Last week, Hunan provincial tourism bureau announced 10 reasons in support of its proposal of Dec 26, as the ideal national tourism day.

"The proposals involving Mao and Deng have made things complicated," said Wang Jianmin, a professor of travel law at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

Wang said there are two reasons local governments are so interested in having their proposals accepted by the State Council.

"One, winning is a big achievement for local officials. And two, they can use the national tourism day to promote their province, bringing in a lot of tourists and government funds," he explained.

But the public feels local governments are making a fool of themselves.

"If they can fabricate votes for something as petty as a national tourism day, then they can fabricate many other things," said Zhang Hongzheng.

Tourism industry insiders believe that the national tourism day should fall at a time of the year when the general public can actually travel.

"National tourism day is meaningful only when it reminds people traveling is their right and they get a public holiday to practice it," professor Wang Jianmin said.

Zhang Qingzhu, a marketing manager with China Comfort Travel Service, said: "The day should fall at a time when the weather is right for people to travel."

She said May 1, Labor's Day, would be an ideal date for national tourism day, since "people can relax and travel after a year of hard work".