Nearly one out of every nine NPC deputies declined to support the upgrading of Chongqing to become China's fourth municipality. The number of abstentions and votes against the proposal came in contrast to a recent claims by Sichuan's top officials that the upgrading of Chongqing would accelerate the development of the central west region. Of 2,720 deputies at yesterday's closing ceremony in Beijing, 2,403 voted in favour of the plan, with 148 against, 133 abstentions and 36 non-votes. It meant more than 11 per cent, or one in every nine deputies, chose not to support the proposal even though ratification was assured. The approval gave Chongqing the autonomy to handle its affairs and finances without recourse to Sichuan's provincial authorities. It would also see the southwestern city become the largest municipality, with a population of about 30 million. But concern had been voiced by people in Sichuan that Chongqing, as a municipality, would compete with the provincial capital, Chengdu, in securing investments. They also feared the province may lose its leading position. After the closing ceremony, one deputy said: 'People are uncomfortable with such terms as 'dragon head' and 'window' in the proposal when it is said to promote the regional development and to facilitate the Three Gorges project.' But Sichuan Party Secretary Xie Shijie maintained that the promotion of Chongqing would not harm Sichuan. 'In a long-term view and for the benefit of all,' the party secretary said, 'the establishment of Chongqing municipality . . . is a welcome strategy.' Other officials claimed that the promotion was essential as it gave Chongqing greater autonomy in resettling more than one million people displaced because of the Three Gorges Dam project. The other three municipalities in China are Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.