Beijing Water

Beijing water price hikes ‘forced on public’

Cui Xiaohuo
China Daily
December 17, 2009

The government’s decision to raise water prices drew criticism from local residents who voluntarily attended the public hearing on Wednesday.

METRO spoke with five resident attendees out of a group of 10 who said they rejected any form of price increase, including the one-time hike next year and the three-step climb by 2012.

“I’m not satisfied with what I saw today,” said Zhang Yu, a salesman of water-efficient toilets in Beijing.

“A bigger increase or a smaller one – these choices were forced on the public. Authorities have left voters with little room to fully express their ideas and suggestions,” he said after the session.

Along with nine other residents, Zhang was only allowed to attend the hearing after he repeatedly called the authorities a day in advance to make a reservation. They were not given the chance to speak at the session.

But Lu Yingchuan, vice-director of the municipal development and reform commission that organized the hearing, applauded their attendance.

“I wanted to attend because I believe it concerns everyone,” said a middle-aged attendee surnamed Zuo.

The session was broadcast live on the commission’s official website, but aggressive comments from some speakers were filtered.

Zuo said he had traveled downtown from his home in suburban Beijing’s Mentougou district. He listened carefully and responded with passionate applause when he heard public comments.

“I oppose a price hike because I think the government should do more research into the real cost of water in Beijing until the public are convinced,” said Zuo, who is unemployed and lives on social welfare.

Li Rui, a 40-year-old science teacher with the Beijing No 17 Middle School, said he published his disagreement to the government proposal on his blog on the eve of the hearing.

“The water companies said they are running out of money because Beijing’s water is so scarce. I don’t buy it,” he told METRO outside the session.

“I think it’s because they have a monopoly control that makes them too lazy to update their technology for water recycling. This wastes a lot of Beijing’s water resources,” Li said. “It’s human error.”

Other attendees also urged the government to come up with better solutions instead of a price hike.

“I support differential pricing,” said an elderly attendee, who declined to reveal his name.

“The government said it lacks the technology to do it, but I just think they don’t want to,” he said.

Resources on Beijing’s water crisis from Probe International:

Beijing’s Water Crisis: 1949-2008 Olympics: Report

Beijing citizens invited to express opinions about city’s water prices

Beijing ‘may collapse’ over water crisis

The drag of the South-North Diversion Project

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