Society

Giving a toss

Property managers urge more civic responsibility

Meet the jettisons: too many Chinese toss litter off their balconies

When used condoms appeared on his balcony for two mornings in a row, the first-floor resident of an apartment complex in Shanghai decided that it was time for action.

The infuriated man pinned the prophylactics to the building’s communal notice board, with a note: ‘You may not want children, but there’s still no need to throw these downstairs.’ He’d seen plenty of rubbish thrown out of high-rises, he told Xinmin Evening News, but never anything like this.

In fact, the jettisoning of rubbish out of upper-story windows has been a perennial problem in the city, says the South China Morning Post.

Property management companies have come under increasing pressure to clamp down on the litterbugs, following dissent from downstairs neighbours.

“It has been a headache for society for a long time,” says a spokesman for the Shanghai Property Management Association. “It is just so hard to pinpoint offenders.”

To crackdown on littering and other unflattering public behaviour, Shanghai’s luxury residential communities are now turning to people like Yuan Guijun for help.

According to Oriental Outlook, before Yuan retired, he ran a successful business. And now? “Director of the neighbourhood community is my new title, and managing the community property is my major responsibility,” Yuan told the magazine.

In 2001, Yuan purchased a house in Shanghai’s high-end apartment community, Riverside Garden. Shortly after he settled into his new home, Ding Chenhui, the neighbourhood secretary, knocked on his door to ask if the ex-CEO would be interested in running for neighbourhood director.

Yuan now takes care of everything from the security of the small-gated community to acting as “big brother” in disputes between residents. He says his role is no different from the CEO of a big corporation.

Thanks to Yuan’s management, Riverside Garden is one of best-run private properties in Shanghai. That is reflected in property prices at the development; Riverside Garden has appreciated from Rmb8,000 ($1,168) per square metre in 2001 to Rmb35,000 today. As a benchmark, the housing estate across the street has risen from Rmb9,000 to Rmb16,000 over the same period.

“Good community management will undoubtedly increase the property value,” says Yuan.

Many luxury residential estates are enlisting former professionals like Yuan. Among Jing’An Garden’s 15-member homeowners’ committee, half are business executives.

The new property managers may help improve the local sense of civic duty, something that Liu Qi, a columnist in Beijing, believes is still not part of the local culture.

“Apart from one’s own home, one’s own office, or what’s in front of one’s own door, callous indifference is the norm – whatever, who cares,” Liu wrote in his column in Southern Weekly. “It seems that only at crucial junctures involving the fate of the nation will we shout, ‘everyone has the obligation.’ Ask the heavens, how long does it take to awaken the public to civic action?”

The long war against spitting and littering suggests Liu has a point.

No doubt, our first-floor Shanghai resident is asking the same question, too.


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