Chinese Internet users ask Obama to solve problems

Internet users in China, a country with a long tradition of petitioning, are appealing to a new authority to resolve grievances and controversies such as the merits of salty or sweet tofu – the U.S. White House petitions Web site.

Created by U.S. President Barack Obama, the online petitioning system was designed as an easy way for Americans to make their voices heard, according to the Web site. But he may have underestimated its global appeal in the Internet age.

“We request that the U.S. government make sweet the official flavor of jellied tofu, namely through the addition of syrup, granulated or brown sugar or other sweeteners,” said one petition, written in Chinese, on the site.

The number of signatures for the appeal created Tuesday was steadily climbing. As of Wednesday morning, it had received more than 1,000 digital endorsements.

That falls far short of the 100,000 signatures needed to merit a response from the Obama administration, a threshold the government has reserved the right to adjust.

There is a regional divide in China on how jellied tofu should be consumed, with a slightly sweetened variety enjoyed in many parts of the south and a saltier style common in the north.

“Send troops to liberate the Chinese people,” reads another petition, this one with more than 3,500 signatures.

Part protest, part entreaty, petitioning has deep roots in China, a country where courts are seen as beyond the reach of ordinary people or beholden to officials. Many seek redress for land seizures, factory layoffs, or medical and police disputes.

But doing so in China can be a risky affair, often leading to detention in secret facilities dubbed black jails.

The China-related requests appeared alongside pleas for Obama to reduce gun violence and increase the budget for NASA, the U.S. space agency, and not all were funny.

One called for the United States to extradite a suspect in the 1994 poisoning of Chinese graduate student Zhu Ling. It received 134,000 signatures in five days.

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