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Adviser's beard stays, for now

By Qiu Quanlin  (China Daily)

09:56, January 24, 2013

The mayor of Guangzhou, Chen Jianhua, promised on Wednesday to make public a government document relating to construction contracts, adding that he hopes political adviser Meng Hao will soon be able to shave his beard.

In a protest against the local authority "hiding" the document, Meng has not shaved since January 2012.

"I will not shave until the document is publicized. As a resident of Guangzhou, I have the right to know about local policies," Meng said.

Media reported that local government granted several construction projects to major companies. It is the documents relating to these contracts that Meng wants to be made public. The contracts were issued in 2008 and were part of the city's fundraising reform plan.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Chen said the documents will be made public by the end of March.

"I feel very sorry that Meng's long beard has caused him much inconvenience over the past year. Now he should be able to have a shave," he said.

Chen said the document involves six large State-owned enterprises and details of their finances and allocation of State assets.

"The document was finalized five years ago by the previous government. But we must continue to carry out the policies and regulations stated in the document," said Chen, who became mayor of Guangzhou last year.

The unknown contents of the document have attracted growing public attention after local residents began protesting against a trash incinerator project in the city's Panyu district in 2009. The project was included in the document, and a State-owned company, Guangzhou Guangri Elevator Industry Group, was granted the construction contract.

The document will be made public once all enterprises involved finish fundraising, Chen said.

"It is because of some technical problems. We did not mean to hide anything behind the document," Chen added.

Chen also said the local government will increase transparency when making decisions on large projects in the public interest.

"From my perspective, more requests from the public will help push the development of a transparent government," he said.

At the news conference, Chen asked Meng to shave in the afternoon, after the member of the Guangdong committee of China's political advisory body sent his thanks to the mayor via a text message to a reporter.

Chen answered the message: "Hello, Mr Meng Hao, please have a shave in the afternoon. You should have a nice appearance to attend the provincial political consultative conference. Let's see it later."

However, Meng insisted he will not shave until the paper is finally publicized.

"I am very grateful for the mayor's response. But the promise does not mean the papers are publicized. I will not shave until March," Meng said.

Meng will also submit a proposal related to publicizing government documents to the annual session of Guangdong committee of China's political advisory body, which opened on Wednesday.

"I really want to have a new appearance at the conference. My beard is nearly 15 centimeters long," Meng said.

"The mayor's response has sent a positive signal regarding government transparency," Meng added.

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