Lesson from protests

Updated: 2012-07-30 08:07

(China Daily)

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This month saw another protest against a pollution-related project on Saturday. This time, people in Qidong, Jiangsu province, demonstrated against a pipeline project to discharge wastewater from a paper mill in nearby Nantong city into the sea.

The local government announced the cancellation of the project on Saturday itself because of the residents' objection to the disposal of wastewater off the Qidong coast.

Early this month, residents of Shifang, Sichuan province, protested against the building of a molybdenum copper plant, and the local government cancelled the project.

What do we learn from the two incidents?

Had both local governments communicated and interacted properly with the local residents on the projects they had been planning, they could have avoided the embarrassment of facing demonstrations.

Maybe the environmental concern and worry of the two cities' residents were not totally based on informed judgment. Yet they still had enough reason to challenge the decision of the local governments because there are many precedents of projects earning revenue for local governments but causing serious pollution and trouble for residents. After all, local leaders have the responsibility of giving local residents full information about their governance.

Later, Shifang's top leader admitted regretfully that the local government had not had enough communication with residents, even though the onus of communicating with people lies with the government.

In fact, a local government's lack of concern for the will of residents in its decision-making process is dangerous, especially when people's awareness of their rights and interests is on the rise. The protests in the two cities prove that.

This awareness among people is good for healthy economic development of and social progress in not only a small region, but also the entire country.

Only by attaching enough importance to the will of the people and paying enough attention to their rights and interests can a government reduce the chances of making wrong decisions. And only by keeping the channels of communication open can leaders of a government know the grievances that people have.

The Qidong and Shifang demonstrations should teach local governments to build proper channels of communication and interaction with residents. This is also what a recent central government meeting decided. The meeting said the goal of maintaining social stability is to protect people's interests.

(China Daily 07/30/2012 page8)