China’s nominees for central bank governor and environment, education and housing ministers drew the most opposing votes of any appointments, two days after President Xi Jinping was appointed with one dissenting ballot.
Of 25 minister-level nominees, only those four received more than 100 “no” votes yesterday from 2,952 delegates at the National People’s Congress, which approves decisions of the ruling Communist Party.
The votes reflect the public acrimony sparked by rising home prices, environmental degradation and school safety that have led to online criticism of the government and also violent demonstrations. Pollution surpassed land disputes as the biggest cause of protests in China, Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, said this month.
“The housing problem, the state of the environment all over the country, and frustrations about educating one’s children must have played roles in the negative voting on the relevant ministers,” Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor of government at Harvard University, said by e-mail.
The NPC appointed Jiang Weixin as housing minister with 181 votes against. Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian received 171 opposing votes, compared with 158 for People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan and 135 for Education Minister Yuan Guiren. There were a total of 850 opposing votes for the environment and resources committee of the NPC.
The opacity of the system makes it hard for outsiders to discern the cause of an opposing vote, and the decisions may express opposition to the individual nominee rather than the government’s policy, Kerry Brown, a former U.K. diplomat and a professor of China studies at the University of Sydney, said by phone.
Former President Jiang Zemin received 35 opposing votes in 1993, according to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper. Party Chairman Mao Zedong drew one in 1949, the year the Communist Party took power.
In April 1992, 177 representatives voted against the Three Gorges Dam project and 644 abstained, according to Yu Keping’s book “Democracy and Rule of Law in China.”
The legislators “want to show to the public that they are the people’s deputies and they speak for the people,” said Ding Xueliang, a professor of Chinese politics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “But they cannot speak for the most critical complaints.”
Areas such as public security, treatment of the country’s Tibetan and Uighur minorities and the one-child policy are more difficult for NPC representatives to oppose, Ding said.
Home prices rose in February for a ninth month, extending a rebound that began after the central bank cut interest rates last year. Wen Jiabao, who Li Keqiang succeeded as premier March 15, vowed before leaving office that the government’s three year campaign to rein in the property market would continue. Real estate prices in China rose 160 percent in the 1998-2011 period after the country privatized the property market, according to government data.
Wen also ordered the drafting of rules to better protect children on school buses, which were adopted last year, after a series of crashes involving vehicles carrying students killed more than four dozen people from November 2011 to April 2012.
Chinese authorities have also vowed to clean up the nation’s environment after air pollution levels in Beijing hit hazardous levels on 20 days in January. The government has pledged to control coal consumption, ordered higher gasoline standards and announced plans to support alternative energy.