Interference of the residents’ committees in condominium governance in practice

The street offices and the resident's committees have the legal mandate of “supervising and monitoring” the HOA. To make supervising and monitoring easier, it is in the interest of the residents’ committee to ensure a ‘compliant’ owners committee is formed at early on. HOAs are required to file their records of formation (meeting minutes and election outcomes) with the local government within 30 days of their establishment (Property Management Law 2018, Clause 16). Yet unlike common practice in other countries, the act of‘filing' in China is not merely the deposit of relevant documents required by the law; it is a de facto approval by the state of the existence and legitimacy of the HOA, since an HOA without a record in the government will be treated as an ‘illegal’ organization. Cases were reported in the news that operations of several HOAsin Beijing in 2010 were forced to halt as their registration with the local government was either being withheld for a long time or was simply dismissed, despite there being no concrete evidence of flaws regarding their formation (Xinjing News 2010).

Another way of guaranteeing ‘compliant’ HOAs is to ensure the ‘right kind' of persons are elected to the homeowners’ committees (Yip 2019a). In their capacity as the chair of the preparatory committee for establishment of HOAs (and re-election in some local regulations), the street office has the power to screen out undesirable candidates including, for instance, those who have demanded the dismissal of the cun ent property management agents, who have been involved in protests, or who have refused to pay the property management fee in silent protest. One such example was in Yinfeng Garden in Beijing, where the balloting process of a re-election was halted upon the request of the residents' committee. It was alleged that the re-election process did not formally involve the residents’ committee in the preparation of the ballot. Condominium owners who were involved in the preparatory committee were even summoned to an ‘education’ session to ‘enhance' their understanding of state policy (Data collected in the authors’ field work, November 2017).

Yet screening candidates or vetoing elections by the state officials are often regarded as too passive a measure for controlling condominium owners. A more proactive intervention is for the local party branch to fill the key posts in the homeowners committee. For instance, residents’ committees in Shanghai pioneered a campaign in 2008 to mobilize members of the local communist party branch to rim for positions in homeowners’ committees (Yip 2019a). This later became a national policy directive of the Communist Party in strengthening party leadership at the glassroots level - “[the local party] should explore ways for officials of the residents’ committee, via legitimate channels, to be elected as members of the homeowners committee” (Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and State Council 2017, art. 4.5).

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