State Council orders probe into pricey buildings

State Council wants to know if local cadres have put up luxury HQs since it took over in March

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 6:30am

The State Council has ordered a nationwide inspection to find out if any new luxurious government buildings have been built since the new cabinet was installed in March.

According to its "urgent notification", the State Council ordered thorough checks to see whether central or local government agencies had used public funds to build extravagant offices, halls or guest houses.

At his first press conference as a premier on March 17, Li Keqiang pledged to rein in official extravagance: "Within my tenure, the government will not use public coffers to construct new offices, halls or guest houses for government use."

For some years, unreasonably luxurious government buildings have been a source of public anger that frequently spills over to the online community. In particular, internet users expressed dismay at the sight of expensive and ostentatious government buildings being built in impoverished counties or small cities.

One of the most notorious examples is the government headquarters in Fuyang , a prefectural-level city in Anhui province, which cost at least 30 million yuan (HK$37 million) to build a decade ago and became a tourist attraction for its supposed resemblance to the US White House, though it actually looks more like the Capitol.

Meanwhile, with a gross floor area of 370,000 square metres, the office complex in Jinan , capital of Shandong province, is the largest government building in China and reportedly second in size only to the US Pentagon. It cost 4 billion yuan to build last year.

In an attempt to placate the public, the central government vowed to ban the construction of wasteful and extravagant official buildings as early as in 2007, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, a report carried by Xinhua's Outlook Weekly magazine yesterday lashed out at the tricks employed by gluttonous officials to sidestep the new austere standard of "four dishes and one soup" for official hospitality.

The report said some officials stuck to the required number of dishes but replaced the more modest ones with extravagant delicacies such as sea cucumber, shark's fin soup and abalone.

Other officials, the report said, were found either ordering four big dishes that included numerous small side dishes or enjoying several "four dish and one soup" sets during the course of a meal.

This year before he officially became president, Xi Jinping called on government bodies, the military, state-owned enterprises, non-profit organisations and officials to set an example and forgo wastefulness.