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Following the State Council's approval "in principle" of the new national holidays calendar that cancelled the Golden Week holiday in May, a steep rise has been seen in prices for overseas tours during the coming Spring Festival.

This partly proves anticipation of more crowds and higher prices for tours during the other two Golden Weeks.

Nostalgia might be responsible for the less-than-enthusiastic public response to the new calendar. Some people may rather brave the crowds, than have a week-long vacation abolished. But to our knowledge, much of the discontent with the new arrangement has to do with the way it was done.

In fairness to the authorities, the very idea of re-scheduling the national holidays was a result of prevailing public dissatisfaction with the Golden Weeks. We appreciate their responsiveness to public concerns. There were efforts to solicit public opinion. And the ultimate outcome was said to conform with the majority opinion - more than 80 per cent of the respondents reportedly supported the cancellation of the May Golden Week. The entire process appeared to be impeccable.

But it was not. At least two vital flaws have rendered the process open to question.

Many have pointed out the survey itself was questionable. For one thing, a poll supposed to reflect the opinion of the national populace, most of whom are yet to have access to the World Wide Web, should not have relied so heavily on the Internet. Currently, Internet users only account for one-tenth of the population. Even if 80 per cent of all Chinese Internet users endorsed the new arrangement, they are far from being representative.

Not to mention the fact that the survey's questionnaire did not allow respondents to say whether or not they agreed with canceling the May Golden Week. This was ridiculous for a survey with such a specific purpose. We have no evidence to say it was meant to mislead, though some think so. But at least it was too unprofessional to be convincing.

The current holidays calendar is said to be a compromise, which means further adjustments will be made. Whatever the further changes will be, we hope they are made in a more sophisticated manner.

For a country of 1.3 billion people, it is actually quite impossible to make a policy that satisfies everyone. But at a time when people are more aware of due process, neglect of technical details can make otherwise easy decisions difficult.

(China Daily December 10, 2007)

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