Have you heard of JingJing and Chacha? These cute little characters look like they came straight from a children’s comic strip. The people of the city of Shenzhen in southern China discovered them on January 21, 2006, on the official city portal as representatives of the Shenzhen Internet Police. The message is clear: “Jing cha” means “police” or “police officer” in Chinese. According to the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau, Division of Internet Surveillance, the two characters are there to remind Web users that the Internet—a public space—is not exempt from the law and police surveillance.

The surveillance effort apparently aims to educate. After investigating the matter, the China Digital Times (chinadigitaltimes.net) reported that both characters have a Web address enabling Internet users to get to know and interact with them: http://66110.qzone.qq.com (for JingJing), and http://777110.qzone.qq.com (for Chacha).

Their sites feature a blog, a photo album (actually graphics), and a QQ (instant messaging software) number for interactive communication. At present, six policemen reportedly are assigned with operating the sites.