A township boss in Shanxi province has been sacked and is under investigation after a report revealed the local Government extorted money and misappropriated education funds to build a luxurious $4 million office. In a rare report revealing rising tension between grassroots cadres and farmers, Xinhua said on its Web site yesterday that impoverished farmers were furious when they saw the building being constructed in Duanshi under the leadership of Feng Wenzhong. The multi-storey government office houses about 80 township cadres. It cost more than 4.5 million yuan (HK$4.23 million) to build. The annual income of Duanshi - a town of 120,000 people - is less than 1.3 million yuan. To finance the project, Xinhua said, the local Government had double-taxed farmers on everything from education to birth-control fees for the past four years. Farmers who refused to pay the additional taxes had their crops and furniture confiscated. Although the report did not mention protests, it said the relationship between cadres and farmers was tense and few dared to travel alone in the villages. The cadres acquired the money by putting pressure on their subordinates at village level. Since 1998, at least 30 village cadres had been penalised and some sacked for failing to pressurise farmers under their control to pay up, according to Xinhua. In addition to taking money directly, the township's Government also stole from the education budget, Xinhua claimed. A number of primary schools in Duanshi had shut down after running out of money. A villager contacted yesterday said most young people in the area had left and found work elsewhere, as life was too difficult: 'Each of us is allocated a very small plot of land. The produce from the land is not even enough to feed the family, never mind generating income.' The building was intended to score political points. City and county leaders threw a lavish banquet this September to celebrate its opening. During the banquet, each village under the Duanshi Government was told to pay up to 1,000 yuan as a 'present' to celebrate the opening. A separate Xinhua report said the township's Government spent 100,000 yuan alone on the opening ceremony and collected 260,000 yuan in 'cash presents' from villages and schools under its control. Feng told Xinhua that the building had been approved by his superiors, who told him to construct a building which they could be proud of for 10 years.