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Housing, ecology top people's concerns
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Housing, bridging the income gap between the rich and poor, environmental protection and social security are on top of people's wish list before the country's parliament and highest political advisory body begin their annual sessions.

The National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference will begin their meetings on Wednesday and today, respectively.

Environmental Protection

"I hope the 'two sessions' will continue to emphasize on awareness for environmental protection and speed up eco-conservation efforts," Taihu Lake fisherman Zhang Jinwen says. Water supply to about 2 million residents in Wuxi, Jiangsu province had to be cut for several days last summer after an algae outbreak in the lake.

The lake's ecology has worsened over the past few years, Zhang says , because his catch from the freshwater lake has been falling constantly.

"Residents around the lake support the closure of nearby chemical companies, the major source of pollution, because our and our children's livelihood revolves around the water body," he says.

Ma Yongsheng, a resident of a village in the mountains of southwestern Yunnan province, has a different story. He hopes the government would compensate people like him for the crops destroyed by wild animals, such as black bears and monkeys. The number of such animals has grown after the government banned hunting a few years ago.

Urban residents have yet another tale to tell. Take Beijing Olympics volunteer Zhang Baozhong for example. He hopes the central government would ask big cities to pass laws to prevent noise pollution.

Rich-poor gap

"I hope the government imposes more taxes on high-income people and give effective punishments to tax evaders to make taxes an effective method of adjusting income distribution," says a netizen on Sina.com.

The country's economic growth has been rapid in the past few decades. But it has widened the income gap between the rich and poor too. "Can the economic growth rate and the increase in income of middle- and low-income households maintain the same pace?" is one of the most common questions on major websites such as Xinhuanet.com and Sina.com.

Shenzhen Academy of Social Sciences president Le Zheng says it is true that the average income of the people has increased and their living conditions improved.

"But like most countries at the beginning of their modernization process, China, too, is seeing unbalanced development."

"Social wealth is increasing but so are the contradictions in all respects. Therefore, it is very important for the government to pay attention to the problems arising out of rapid economic development," Le says.

Housing & social security

The real estate market is booming and housing prices have soared in many big cities over the past few years.

The price of commercial property has doubled or almost doubled in Beijing in three years.

This, a netizen says, calls for adopting polices to stop speculation in the real estate market. "Seen from the per-capita income point of view, housing prices are far too high."

A netizen from Zhejiang province says: "I'm frugal in everything, but the dream of owning a house is getting further and further away. I hope the government takes effective measures to bring down housing prices to ensure a home for everyone."

Medical care and social security of migrant workers are also among people's top concerns.

The country should step up efforts to make medical care and social security cover the two huge groups of people, who have contributed a lot to the country's prosperity, netizens say.

About 130 million migrant workers work in cities most of the year but they face a lot of difficulties in becoming a "true urban resident".

This year's NPC session will have migrant workers' deputies for the first time. Hopefully, the condition of migrant workers will be improve as the deputies seek to protect their legal rights.

(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2008)

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