Noisy neighbourhood? Take 'em to court
Sixteen homeowners at a residential district in Beijing took operators of the city's metro system, an urban expressway and a real estate developer to a grass-roots court for noise harassment.
The Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court broadcast the trial online Tuesday, a first for the country.
Living at Tonghui Garden residential district beside the metro line and the Beijing-Tongzhou Highway, the 16 plaintiffs believe their rights have been seriously damaged by noise caused by the transportation systems.
Xu Xiuquan, a homeowner, said the residents had a company conduct noise tests last year and the results proved sound conditions were too loud for a residential area, over the national standard.
The four plaintiffs are asking for compensation of 50,000 yuan (US$6,000) per person from the Beijing Urban Development Group, the Beijing Capital Company Ltd, the Beijing Municipal Urban Affairs Project Management Department and the Beijing Metro Operations Company.
Fees for the noise test were also requested by the plaintiffs from the four defendants, accounting for 171 yuan (US$21) per person.
Sources with the developer of Tonghui Garden, the Beijing Urban Construction Group, said Tuesday at court that the location of the residential area was fixed by the municipal government.
As an affordable housing project, Tonghui Garden was designed to provide houses for middle and low-income groups at a relatively low price, officials said.
The real estate developer also pointed out that the district passed a national check-out in 2002.
Meanwhile, operators of the Beijing-Tongzhou Highway, the Beijing Capital Company Ltd, claimed that the company should not shoulder any responsibility for the noise since the highway was completed in 1996, three years ahead of the residential area's construction.
"House owners should be aware of the transportation conditions before making the decision to buy a house," the company said.
Meanwhile, the other two defendants also downplayed the indictment.
"Our department is only responsible for repairing the affiliated road to the Beijing-Tongzhou Highway. So noise is not a factor we are responsible for," a lawyer representing the Beijing Municipal Urban Affairs Project Management Department said at court.
Sources with the metro operation company agreed with the capital company as saying that it should not shoulder any responsibility as the residential district was built later than the metro line.
No decision was made Tuesday after the second hearing.
Lu Guihua, spokesman for the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court, announced Tuesday that the court will continue to make live broadcasts online of trials in the future, at least once per week.
"To broadcast trials live online will make the work of court more transparent through wider participation of residents," he told China Daily Tuesday.