Three Gorges Probe

Researcher sues ministry over special utility fee

(January 28, 2010) A Beijing man is taking the Ministry of Finance to court after the agency refused to explain to him how they spend the extra fee tacked on to the electricity bills of nearly every household in the country.

The special fee, which has added up to billions since 1992, is collected for the Three Gorges Construction Fund, according to the plaintiff, Ren Xinghui, a researcher at the Transition Institute in Beijing, a think-tank.

Every customer in the country pays the extra fee except people in Tibet, Ren told the Global Times Wednesday.

Beijing Electricity Power Corporation told the Global Times that the current charge for each kilowatt hour for the fund is 0.7 fen, compared with 0.3 fen in 1992 .

But Ren, 24, a researcher, said he never previously noticed that the electricity tariff was used for that purpose until he started doing research on the Three Gorges Project early last year for a website project based at the institute.

“I was surprised that the fund injected 70 billion yuan ($10 billion) into the construction during the last 17 years, but very little information about the fund was released to the public,” Ren told the Global Times Wednesday.

Ren wrote to the ministry in October seeking information about the capital flow of the fund, but the request was rejected.

The ministry told him that a breakdown of the 2008 fund was released, and the information Ren requested has no direct connection to his life.

“Why isn’t it related to my living?” Ren said. “I’m not the only one who pays extra for electricity. Everyone in Beijing is paying.”

Yangcheng Evening News reported that residents in Guangdong Province are paying 0.7 fen extra per kilowatt. The paper said if a family uses 4,000 kilowatt hours a year, they would be required to pay 28 yuan ($4) to the fund.

Shen Kui, an administrative law professor at Peking University, expressed his opinion on the newspaper that although the ministry rejected Ren’s request for the information as having nothing to do with his research, they did not say the information was not related to the public.

Li Yan, a Beijing resident who was not aware of the special fee, told the Global Times that he supports Ren’s lawsuit but has little confidence that the lawsuit would be successful.

The No.1 Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing is considering the lawsuit and will decide whether to accept the case next Tuesday.

Xinhua, January 28, 2010

Read the original story here.

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