More young people getting involved in public affairs

It was a triumph for Chen Yihua, a 16-year-old student at the No. 16 High School in Guangzhou, when the Guangzhou Metro Corporation announced on May 10 that it would rethink its renovation plan for the 16 metro stations on Line 1. 

Chen held a poster on the streets of Guangzhou and collected local residents’ signatures from May 3 to 7 to protest against the company’s plan to renovate and repaint all the stations in a unified gray color. 

According to a report by the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Weekly on Monday, Chen thought that the renovation was unnecessary and a waste of public money. The unified color would also make the metro stations on Line 1, which used to have a different color theme foreach station, mundane and boring.

He first contacted staff at metro stations on a public hotline of the Guangzhou Metro, but the only response he got was a notification that his opinions had been recorded. To make himself heard more clearly, Chen finally decided to go to the streets with a poster, the report said.

After Chen’s protest received intensive media exposure, the Guangzhou Metro invited Chen for a meeting on May 8 and brought together engineers and publicity staff to listen to Chen’s opinions. 

Chen was backed by Zeng Baoxian, a former deputy chief engineer of the metro lines in Guangzhou and the former director in charge of Line 1 decorations. 

As a result, the Guangzhou Metro went back on its plans and said it would only renovate stations that had potential safety risks for passengers, adding that all construction work would only begin after the public had been consulted.

Active youth

Chen is not the only youngster in Guangzhou who has shown concern for the city he lives in.

Xiao Lang, a 22-year-old student who was born in Guangzhou and is now studying economics at Xiamen University, has been following the fate of Enning Road in Guangzhou, which has a history of 80 years, since the local government announced plans to demolish it in 2007.

Xiao had first intended to conduct a survey on resident compensation in the neighborhoods on Enning Road, but later found dozens of other people of similar age shared his concerns. 

They teamed up and formed the “Academic Concern Group of Enning Road” in March 2010. The members were all university students who majored in various fields, including urban planning, sociology, agriculture, economics and media. They conducted a survey report on the social impact of the Enning Road Demolition, came up with their own “Enning Road Urban Plan,” and prepared an Enning Road Photo Exhibition that will launch this June.

Although the local government did not alter its demolition plans, some deputies from the local People’s Congress and some urban planning engineers have read their reports, according to Xiao.Xiao told the Global Times that their work is meaningful in two respects.

“First, our work might lead to reflections on the current urban planning mode,” said Xiao. “Second, it can remind young people that no matter how little we know and how small we seem, we still have a voice and can make it heard.”

Deng Qianyuan, another high school student in Guangzhou, is also making posters and going to the streets to tell the world about what she believes in and disapproves of.

The 15-year-old girl carried a poster she made herself that called for an end to shark hunting and the consumption of shark fins to a downtown street in Guangzhou in March, the Southern Metropolis Weekly reported.

A picture of her holding her poster bearing the words “Shark SOS” was posted by her supporters on weibo.com, a popular microblog host in China, and had been forwarded more than 18,730 times as of press time. 

Greater awareness

Jiang Youqing, deputy director of the Center for Public Participation and Social Development under the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the involvement of young people in public affairs reflects a more active interaction between the public and government.

“A mature and prosperous media in Guangdong has made it possible for the public to have a variety of voices, prompting the local government to value public feedback and make responses in a more timely manner, which in turn encourages the public to make their voices heard,” Jiang said. 

“Youngsters do not live in a vacuum. Their attitudes and actions toward public and social affairs are closely affected by adults’ attitudes and actions. But young people’s participation in public affairs will surely encourage some adults to reflect on what they can do for society,” Jiang added.

Guo Weiqing, a professor with the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-Sen University, was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Weekly as saying that it is encouraging to see some of the young generation actively involving themselves in public affairs, because “a small step taken by the youth means a big step taken by citizens.”  
Source: Global Times

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