Universiade makes Shenzhen learn to solicit public opinion

Updated: 2011-08-12 18:34


Preparing for Universiade, Shenzhen authorities learn to adjust to public opinion

Preparing for Universiade, Shenzhen authorities learn to adjust to public opinion

SHENZHEN - Shenzhen's officials took a leap of faith when they let the city's denizens decide whether to keep their vehicles off the roads during the Universiade.

The move by officials in the modern southern city in Guangdong province that borders Hong Kong came after preparatory measures ordered by the government in the past months triggered widespread discussions, some heated, among the public about the 2011 Summer Universiade, which is scheduled to open Friday.

According to the local traffic bureau, some 40,000 car-owners in Shenzhen have thus far filed for voluntarily suspension for using their vehicles during the 12-day event as part of the city's initiative to improve traffic flow.

Officials want 600,000 of the city's 2 million vehicles to be off the roads during the event to ensure that more than 20,000 athletes, officials and journalists can reach all sports venues within an hour.

Ensuring seamless traffic flow has been one of the major challenges for Chinese cities during big events. Mandatory rules restricting the use of vehicles were issued in Beijing in 2008 when it hosted the Olympic Games and in Shanghai in 2010 when it staged the World Expo.

"Under great transportation pressure, we once thought of similar traffic control measures to Beijing and Shanghai but gave up the idea after receiving suggestions from non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens," said Wang Rong, Communist Party chief of Shenzhen.

"From mandatory restrictions to voluntary suspensions, it showed how the government has changed its way of governing," Wang noted.

Analysts said the city government has been under pressure to minimize the impact of its preparatory arrangements for the Universiade due to a wave of backlashes from the public and media.

Earlier in June, residents whose apartments overlook the stadium hosting the opening of the 26th Universiade in Shenzhen were asked to leave their homes for five hours "due to security concerns" during the ceremony.

According to the government's plan, all householders can take part in activities organized by neighborhood committee - such as watching a live broadcasts of the ceremony or visiting scenic attractions.

As the proposed arrangements went public, questions and criticisms quickly spread over the Internet.

The government then agreed to sit down and talk, allowing those who insisted on staying at home that they could do so but with the company of security guards.

Guo Weiqing, a professor of public policy with the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, said even though the public did not overturn any of the city government's decisions, they did make their voices heard and forced the government to make some compromises.

Responding to public backlashes, the Shenzhen city government also lifted a proposed ban on electric bicycles late in July after the directives were introduced in June on security concerns, changing the prohibition to limitation on some roads.

Battery-driven bikes are popular in China due to their low gas emissions and ability to weave around traffic when roads are gridlocked.

Earlier in April, the city drew another wave of criticism toward its preparations for the Universiade, evicting more than 80,000 migrants who were labeled by local municipal police as "high-risk people" who "posed a threat" to the upcoming event.

Many Internet users questioned the legitimacy and rationality of the hard-line policy, calling the move "illegal and inhumane."

Su Huijun, a deputy director of the Publicity Department of Shenzhen, said the government had learned from those controversies and encouraged more participation by the city's residents into public affairs.

"From this perspective, such controversies can help with the city's administration in the future," Su said.

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is located at the southern tip of the Chinese mainland on the eastern bank of the mouth of the Pearl River and neighbors Hong Kong.

The brainchild of Deng Xiaoping, the country's first special economic zone was established here by the Chinese Government in 1980. It has been a touchstone for China's reform and opening-up policy since then.