(April 3, 1992) On April 3, 1992, the National People’s Congress approved the Three Gorges dam. But the refusal of one-third of NPC delegates to give the project their blessing amounted to an unprecedented display of opposition from China’s ‘rubber-stamp’ parliament.
Today in history: On April 3, 1992, China’s National People’s Congress approved the Three Gorges dam, with 1,767 delegates voting in favour, 177 against, 644 abstaining and 25 not casting a vote at all.
The refusal of one-third of NPC delegates to give the project their blessing amounted to a courageous display of opposition from a body that normally rubberstamps government proposals.
“Such a vote might be an overwhelming victory elsewhere,” The Economist magazine noted, “but in China it represented one of the slimmest margins of approval for any project ever put before parliament.”
Li Rui, a former water resources minister and long-time opponent of the Three Gorges project, has commented on the pro-dam media campaign leading up to the vote:
“Several months before the March-April 1992 NPC meeting, the Chinese media launched a massive campaign to publicize the view that the project had to be started right away. The campaign pointed out that the Central Committee of the Communist Party had already approved the project, and that the approval of the resolution by the congress was a mere formality. Despite such a massive media campaign, one-third of delegates still did not vote in favour of the project. Such opposition was unprecedented in communist China. It should make the people in charge think carefully.” (From Yangtze! Yangtze!, edited by Dai Qing, p. 67)
During the NPC session itself, delegate Huang Shunxing, originally from Taiwan, was outraged when microphones were turned off to prevent questions being raised or opposing views to be heard:
“I was not allowed to speak before the voting. I raised my hand, requesting to speak, but was ignored by the chairman. I stood up anyway and at this point I heard a journalist from Taiwan shout: ‘No sound! No sound!’ … Later I learned that the entire sound system in the meeting hall had been shut down, with the exception of the chairman’s microphone. How dare the NPC cut off the power to prevent delegates from exercising their rights? It was then that I decided to protest by walking out of the meeting.” (Yangtze! Yangtze!, p. 113)
Another delegate, Yang Xinren from Jilin province, commented: “The majority of delegates are not fully informed of the technical aspects of the project. So no matter how we vote, we vote in blindness.” (Yangtze! Yangtze!, p. 35)
Categories: Dai Qing and Three Gorges