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August 3, 2009

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Party chief homes in on steep city prices

THE best way to ease the city's sky-high housing prices is to raise supplies, according to Shanghai's Party chief in a wide-ranging interview covering topics from the importance of a harmonious society and the World Expo right down to plain good manners.

"House prices are obviously high," said Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng during the interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television aired last night.

Increasing supply seemed to be the only way to solve the problem, he said.

Yu also promised to penalize any officials involved in illegal real estate project deals with developers.

Clear facts

His comments are timely after some local officials were accused of owning the developer of a 13-floor residential building under construction in Minhang District that collapsed on June 27 because of construction procedure errors.

"No matter how high their ranks, they will be penalized for law violations," the Party chief said.

But he also suggested tackling the issue "carefully" and insisted any penalty should be based on clear facts.

Yu said his key wish was to try his best to do a good job for Shanghai.

He took the office in October 2007, after his predecessor Chen Liangyu was sacked over corruption involving the city's pension fund. Chen is serving an 18-year jail term for taking bribes.

Yu said efforts to improve the Party's and the government's authority and respect among city citizens were imperative as Chen's actions had been damaging.

Yu pointed out two tough tasks he had faced since taking office - Shanghai's economic transformation and addressing already existing problems, such as conflicts involved in the compensation for residents who were relocated to make way for renovation of dilapidated residential blocks, and the pension fund gap between locals and about 2 million former city residents who returned home after many years of working elsewhere in the nation.

Yu said it was also a tough job for the city to set up a legal system in proportion with both China's economic strength and the yuan's status in the international market to serve Shanghai's goal to become a global financial center like Hong Kong.

Yu said Shanghai had shortcomings ahead of World Expo next year, noting bad habits such as jaywalking and spitting.

People who live in Shanghai are "from far and wide and it will be a long-term effort to improve their manners."

Yu said he did not seek accolades but was responsible for people not only in Shanghai but also around China as "Shanghai is China's Shanghai."


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