On December 17, the Harbin municipal government responded to a public hearing participant who allegedly threw a bottle of water to protest not being given a chance to express his opinion. The hearing was about adjusting the price of water in the city.
The Harbin government denied that the man had not been allowed to speak. Yang Hui, a deputy chief of the Harbin Bureau of Commodity Prices, said Liu Tianxiao, the man who apparently threw the bottle, was given more than his allotted time to talk.
"In fact, he was given 9 minutes and 55 seconds to make his presentation, which exceeded the required 5 minutes," Yang said.
Since the end of 2006, Harbin has relied on the Songhua River and the Harbin Mopanshan Water Source Project for water. The Mopanshan project has grown in importance after the Songhua faced major pollution problems in recent years.
But the Mopanshan project is located 176.9 kilometers away from Harbin, and was built at a cost of 5.71 billion yuan. As a result, the cost of water has risen, Yang Hui said.
"Concerning providing high quality water at a competitive price and cost compensation for water supply enterprises, and at the same time taking Harbin's economic development level and concerns residents' affordability, the water price will be 3.68 yuan per cubic meter, an increase of 64 percent," Yang said. Since the water costs about 3.75 yuan per cubic meter, that is lower than what it costs to supply, he noted. Water for residential use will rise from 1.8 yuan per cubic meter to 2.4 yuan per cubic meter, an increase of 33 percent, Yang said.
The Harbin municipal government also decided to allow low-income groups to pay the original water price of 1.3 yuan per cubic meter, and subsidize the difference.