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12 Representatives to Have Their Own Say at Price-hearing

The impending public hearing on the price of rail transportation during the Spring Festival (China's Lunar New Year) has caused a big stir among consumers, experts and pricing regulators.

Required by consumers and mass media, the State Development Planning Commission (SDPC) Thursday revealed the 12 consumer representatives who have been chosen to air views over the Ministry of Railway's application to change ticket prices.

The commission, the highest authority to govern pricing, at a press conference last Sunday had refused to give the list of invited participants who will attend the milestone hearing tomorrow.

Together with the 12, 21 other people including railway experts and National People's Congress deputies are expected to have their say at the first hearing organized by the commission.

The commission has still not revealed any information on the Ministry of Railways' 153-page application, which consists of 10 related documents on cost accounting, financial reports and other issues.

The hearing has attracted much attention from the media and consumers.

China Central Television has planned to broadcast half of the hearing, which is expected to last around six hours.

Xinhua News Agency will keep Internet-users updated on the event on its website www.xinhuanet.com.cn. On Monday, Xinhua opened an online forum about price changes with regards to railway transportation. Xinhua said the views of netizens are likely to be sent to pricing authorities.

Most print media in China have also contributed pages to the process and significance of the hearing.

The Ministry of Railways drew widespread public criticism last year when it raised ticket prices during Spring Festival last January.

Qiao Zhanxiang, a lawyer from Hebei Province, even took the ministry to court for failing to comply with the Pricing Law.

Qiao's case is being heard at the Beijing Intermediate People's Court after he lost in the first trial and lodged an appeal.

Qiao was eager to attend the hearing, but the China Consumers' Association refused to satisfy his demands, saying that lawyers are not the main group influenced by rail transportation.

The association was authorized to choose the 33 representatives from across the Chinese mainland.

Following the Saturday hearing, local pricing authorities in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Hubei provinces are planning to stage hearings on the price of road transportation.

The Pricing Law, which took effect on January 1, 1998, required the pricing authorities to organize public hearings over the pricing of monopoly industries, such as telecommunications and transport.

The SDPC unveiled a detailed regulation last year over hearing preparations and processes.

(China Daily January 11, 2002)

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