Housing vote in Beijing 'not supported'

By Liu Weifeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-19 06:57

The first-ever referendum on the demolition of old houses has not been met with favor by a majority of the general public.

About 62.7 percent of 1,506 people in a week-long survey starting on June 10, were not happy with the way the referendum was conducted.

Respondents disagreed with the method of voting to decide the future of the capital city's largest-ever urban renewal project.

They feared rights of the minority were not taken into account.

"Real democracy means not neglecting the minority," most respondents said.

The survey was jointly conducted by the social survey center of China Youth Daily and Tencent, a website.

Jiuxianqiao sub-district, the focus of the referendum, involved about 20,000 people living in an area of 420,000 sq m. Of those surveyed, 84.4 per cent said they were interested in the urban renewal project for the area because of its size, and the results of the referendum.

"People's interest was aroused because of the adoption of a new method of voting," China Youth Daily was quoted as saying.

Positive comments were received through the media over the democratic system of the vote designed to safeguard the rights of the majority of the people involved, it said.

In the survey, 31.1 percent praised the referendum as a pilot approach, which took account of public opinion in the decision-making process; 34.7 percent believed the vote respected the opinion of the majority and was worth promoting in similar situations in other cities.

A total of 37.3 percent agreed with the voting-oriented approach while 62.7 percent disagreed.

The referendum on June 9 showed that 2,451 families accepted the compensation on offer, while 1,228 families disagreed.

However, the referendum only covered 67 per cent of 5,473 households in the sub-district.

The survey showed 54 per cent believed the referendum was a democratic framework only in name.

Yang Ping, a visiting scholar of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told China Daily majority rule in democratic policies has long been accused of "tyranny over the minority".

"Compared with 'tyranny by the minority', majority rule has obvious advantages and contains more scientific and democratic elements," Yang said.

"The key element of majority rule in China is to guarantee the vote is conducted fairly and openly; otherwise the authority and credibility of majority rule could be challenged," she said.

(China Daily 06/19/2007 page4)

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