On Saturday, 3,711 families, about 67 percent of the 5,473 families, cast
their ballots in a rare vote supporting the demolition of their homes in
Jiuxianqiao sub-district in Chaoyang District, Beijing.
After 12 hours of voting, two thirds of the votes were for the urban renewal
project, but not without many residents showing their mistrust of the entire
process. The vote is to see how many people would support the compensation
policy for demolishing the old buildings, a plan that has changed several times
to meet residents' requirements.
At 8:58 pm, two minutes before the end of voting, a residents' representative
took his watch and began the countdown. Right after 9pm, two notary officials
sealed the ballot box on each side, signed their names and then waited for
security to move the box into the counting center at a nearby gymnasium.
The whole procedure was
scrutinized under the close watch of residents' representatives and journalists.
However, the suspicion of fairness still runs high among local residents. A
middle-aged man said he couldn't find the serial number on the notary officials'
uniform and thought they might not be authentic notaries. Officials denied this,
saying they were all from the Beijing Notary Public Office.
Two security men carry balloting
boxes to a counting center after a voting on the housing demolition and
compensation policy at Jiuxianqiao sub-district in Chaoyang District of
Beijing, June 9, 2007. more
men moved all seven ballot boxes from the six polling stations to the counting
center, which was illuminated by spotlights and decorated with colorful flags
and red banners.
The counting only began after disputes over the
counting procedure delayed the voting for about one hour. At first, the
residents' representatives were allowed to sit close to the notary officials and
monitor the counting. But when a young referendum organizer urged the
representatives to leave the area, one 70-year-old man surnamed Zhou, also a
residents' representative, refused and demanded to know how their rights would
be protected if he couldn't see the counting directly. Residents who were
watching along the sidelines also shouted in support of Zhou.
Ba Changrui, deputy leader for the Jiuxianqiao Sub-district Office, chatted
with Zhou briefly, but failed to persuade him to leave. Then other residents'
representatives went back to their seats too.
Notary officials and residents' representatives counted every vote carefully.
On every table, there were hot discussions and sometimes quarrels due to the
difference over certain ballots. In the end 32 ballots were spoiled.
A residential vote observer surnamed Wang said that the result was useless.
Another resident's representative, who monitored the counting, said that 1,700
families didn't turn out and most of them were opponents to the compensation
policy. But a reporter said he met a woman who came to the ballot booth four
times because she didn't bring enough documents for identification purposes. And
another resident explained that some of those who didn't show up to vote were
not well-educated and didn't understand the process.
Ba explained the vote helps the government and developer to understand
people's ideas about the demolishing project, and the vote will not decide when
the demolishing will begin. During his closing remarks after the results were
released, Ba urged residents to be patient and wait for the developer to propose
Individual interest and public interest
Throughout the day, residents were anxious to tell the media their side of
the story, even though some even questioned if reporters can tell the truth.
Those residents, mostly seniors, circled around reporters and told them how they
felt the current compensation policy was unfair.
A man with white hair and wrinkled face said he devoted his younger years to
work for a state-owned company with low income during the planned economy period
and he only wants the government to pay more to him now. Another man surnamed
Zhang claimed he has two rooms totaling 50 square meters in one of the old
buildings and under the current compensation policy will only get a new home of
70 square meters. He will agree to the demolishment project if the amount of
space offered room will be doubled.
Meanwhile, a well-dressed woman also in her sixties urged residents to be
realistic and not so selfish. The woman said residents should not be too
demanding and the local government had made great efforts in trying to come to
an agreement between the residents and the developer.
Officials from the Construction Committee of Changyang District told Beijing
Morning News that law or administrative measures might be used for those
residents who asked for unreasonable conditions for demolishing their homes.