A car accident has revealed that a concrete parapet on top of a dam on a tributary of the Yangtze River in Taizhou, Jiangsu, is filled with weed stems rather than steel reinforcing bars.
Jiangsu Satellite TV reported that a 48-year-old man died after he lost control of his car, smashed through the barrier and plunged into the icy river near midnight on Friday.
It remains unclear whether the dam itself was built using weeds or steel reinforcing bars.
A police officer stationed near the river confirmed the television report but denied other reports that the dam is a key defence against flooding on the Yangtze, saying it was on the Nanguan River, a tributary of the Yangtze.
Local residents described it as the mainland's latest case of 'tofu construction' - a phrase used by then-premier Zhu Rongji when he blamed corrupt officials for the poor quality of part of the main dyke on the Yangtze in Jiujiang, Jiangxi, after it burst during a massive flood in the summer of 1998.
Public anger about poor-quality construction on the mainland peaked in May 2008 when thousands of children were buried and killed after an 8-magnitude earthquake caused school buildings to collapse in Sichuan .
Jiangsu Satellite TV said relatives of the dead motorist accused the local government of negligence.
'Nearly 100 households stand on the eastern shore of the Nanguan River, and they've noticed that quite a large part of the river dam has been damaged for a long time, but the local authorities simply turned a blind eye to it,' one relative said.
Some internet users attacked the lack of ethics of those involved in the construction of the dam.
One wrote: 'This perfectly matches the old Chinese saying, 'Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside'.'