Chinese living standards poll ‘brazenly rigged’

Tania Branigan – The Guardian

Copyright The Guardian
• Jiangsu residents say they were offered 1,000 yuan to answer ‘correctly’
• Pupils given day off school to memorise replies
Thursday 12 February 2009 17.05 GMT
It was an approval rate that any government would covet. The Qidong district in Jiangsu scored 94.8% in a telephone poll of residents by the province’s bureau of statistics.
But the result reflected more than the rising standard of living. Local officials had “brazenly rigged” the survey by ordering citizens to give set answers and offering them money to comply, a state broadcaster has revealed.
Cadres issued a leaflet outlining replies to 10 questions, and handed out up to 1,000 yuan (£103) for answering “correctly” – and even gave pupils the day off school so they could memorise the answers and prompt their parents during the poll, according to China National Radio.
It said it had documented similar practices across several parts of Nantong city and accused officials of turning a serious attempt to garner public opinion into a farce.
Though the revelations have prompted sardonic amusement among listeners, they also offer an illuminating insight into the notorious unreliability of official statistics – and the difficulties that central authorities often have in determining what happens at a local level.
The province-wide survey was intended to measure progress in meeting Jiangsu’s targets for improving prosperity. Areas require 60% public approval to reach the required standard.
But one resident told the station: “The whole thing was faked.”
According to villagers, officials issued them with leaflets containing 10 questions and standard replies during meetings and in home visits, threatening and cajoling them into using them.
Rural residents were ordered to claim that their annual net income was 8,500 yuan – far above the true figure, they said – while city dwellers were told to declare a 16,000 yuan income.
All were told to say they had social insurance and to express satisfaction with their residences, roads and environment.
The Qidong city party secretary, Sun Jianhua, told the radio station that there was no exaggeration and the survey reflected the views of a random sample of residents.
A city government official said: “There is nothing like the media have reported.
“The office in charge of the event has been disbanded so I cannot find someone to respond, but I believe it has been a misunderstanding. Our residents are not very well-educated so we have to explain [matters] to them.”
The residents are not the first in Jiangsu to express satisfaction after intensive coaching. The Nanjing Morning Post reported recently that Shiqiao, a town in Nanjing city, received a 96% rating after residents were issued with 16 answers and promised 2,000 yuan for repeating them.
One section read: “Question: If you were to measure happiness on a 100-point scale, how many points would you give yourself? Answer: Between 90 and 100.”
Village officials were told to guarantee that households under their watch supplied the standard answers, and were warned they would lose a cash deposit and even their jobs if something went wrong.
But around 100 poorer residents who had planned to comply with the scheme for the sake of the cash were foiled when their phones stopped working.
“We realised that this wasn’t a problem with our phones: someone was worried that we’d say something bad during a survey call,” one told the paper.
Click to read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *