Ballot bust-up

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-26 17:53:01

Residents clash with Clifford Estates' property management company in August 2014 for harassing candidates' campaigns. Photo: IC

An owners' committee election at Clifford Estates, one of the largest residential compounds in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, home to over 200,000, has turned sour and escalated into a conflict between residents and the local property management company.

Owners' committees are autonomous groups of local residents, elected by property owners to act in their best interest. They are supposed to supervise the quality of property management companies, which may represent government interests, and act when disputes arise. They also have the right to designate or replace property management companies when their contracts end, according to China's property law.

In reality, however, their role is often limited and in recent years, reports of tensions between owners' committees and property management companies have been on the rise. Many believe these tensions represent the rising awareness of democracy among China's urban population.

In the recent election of a new owners' committee in Clifford Estates, for example, candidates say the election was manipulated by the property management company, who asked their employees and relatives to participate in the election. The company then secured victory by pulling strings behind the election process.

Residents say that on a voting day in April, many security guards, cleaners and property management staff arrived at the compound, forming groups of two and knocking on residents' doors with ballots that had already been filled. They asked the residents to either sign the ballots, or relinquish their right to vote.

Chen Jing, a candidate running in the election, said she bumped into two security guards who asked her to sign a ballot in her building. They then refused to give her a blank ballot.

The 11 candidates that appeared on the pre-marked ballots, according to later investigations by the property owners, are mostly employees of the property management company's various subordinate departments and their relatives, such as staff members of Clifford's kindergarten or canteen.

Candidates' campaigns also suffered from harassment by Clifford's security guards. On April 27, when Chen Jing put up a stand with banners and posters at Clifford's bus terminal, security guards soon came to drive her and other candidates away, leading to a scuffle between property owners and security guards.

The election result showed that all the candidates that were elected were those whose names were pre-marked on the ballots.

This is just one in a series of confrontations between owners and the property management company at Clifford Estates. Last year, when the company increased its property management fee, many property owners protested, accusing the company of not consulting the residents.

Local residents are now planning to invalidate the election result by suing the property management company for election fraud.

Global Times


On January 4, 2015, resident Li Ping protests against the property management company for turning a public green area into a public toilet, while the area designated for a public toilet was rented out as a warehouse. Photo: IC


Chen Jing's campaign at Clifford's bus terminal is carefully watched by security guards. Photo: IC


Chen sits amid dozens of pre-marked ballots which she snatched from security guards. All the candidates marked down were later elected. Photo: IC


Chen He, a resident, is interviewed by a local television station about his lawsuit against Clifford Estates for raising property fees. Photo: IC

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