Thursday, June 28, 2007

National Television Turns to Online Forum for Revealing Extravagant Government Buildings

From top to bottom: a city government building in Zhejiang; government building of a poor county in Shanxi; government building of a small town

In a post titled “You are a citizen, but also a journalist,” the popular online public forum asks visitors to contribute photos of extravagant government buildings around them. The post says the China Central Television is calling for these photos to prepare for a program revealing how local governments waste tax dollars for lavish structures.

Nearly 100 pictures of such structures from all over China, provincial capitals as well as impoverished rural towns, have been posted by the public. Some of the buildings are shockingly huge and splendid, especially when they appear in a small city or town that is not economically advanced. Most of these buildings violated construction and spending limits set for official buildings.

Along with the photos are people’s harsh criticisms of government’s lavish spending of public money. One poster lashed out at the waste by composing a poem, and some of the lines read:

Using people’s money, constructing official building
Minding government’s face, forgetting people’s coldness

The more extravagant official building, the less affordable public housing

Officials laugh happily, the public frowns in grief
Corruption and waste uncontainable, how can people’s life not be difficult!

In April, The central government banned extravagant governmental structures, including office buildings, governmental hotels and entertainment facilities, and requested local governments to voluntarily report their own extravagance.

The deadline for self-revealing was June 20, but cover-up by local officials was suspected. Calling for revealing by the public via the Internet could be a powerful antidote to officials’ concealing efforts.

For more pictures and public comments

Central government’s ban on extravagant official buildings

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Local Governments Blamed for Unsuccessful Environmental Campaign

Rivers in China are facing serious pollution

A campaign launched by the central government to protect drinking water resources fell short of its goals and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has blamed local governments for not cooperating with the central authorities.

The campaign, a joint effort of seven state departments, requested that by the end of last year, every province should have drawn up the boundaries of protection areas of drinking water resources, and made sure that no waste discharge outlets existed in “first class” protection areas.

So far, however, only some of the provinces have decided their protection areas, and even fewer have lived up to the requirement of removing drainage from key protection areas, Legal Daily reported.

“Even a joint campaign by seven state departments got out of shape when reached the local level, which demonstrated that environmental protection orders from the central government really faces the embarrassing situation of being stalled,” a SEPA official was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Staff of local environmental agencies, however, complained that they were simply the scapegoat of SEPA’s poor job. In a comment on, a poster, who identified himself as a local environmental worker, criticized the SEPA for poor coordination among its own departments and making it difficult for local agencies to follow their directions.

Many other online comments called for stronger enforcement of state environmental policies. One poster said that it hurts to “watch rivers around us disappearing one after another,” and voiced hope for “iron strong” state policies and executions.

SEPA has long blamed local governments for failing to protect local environment but has not yet come up with efficient means to deal with the problem, since the agency has little power to control local finance or personnel. A scholar suggested that environmental protection should be included in central government’s evaluation of local government officials, to push them to do a better job.