China calls a halt to "luxury" public buildings

Updated: 2007-04-18 16:39

Beijing - No more indoor gardens, multi-storey atriums or high-tech karaoke stages for government buildings, the Chinese government ruled in a crackdown on luxury.

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The move back to the drawing board is partly a response to complaints about ostentatious public buildings, the Xinhua agency said, but also fits with a push for smaller, less wasteful construction as the country looks for greener growth.

Many buildings in China are clad -- inside or out -- with acres of marble and gilt as a sign of prestige. Expensive and energy-guzzling features like huge glass windows and indoor fountains are also popular.

The new rules, handed down by the State Council together with the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in a circular, forbid meeting rooms with simultaneous translation, use of agricultural land and construction of large squares.

"They are not only serious acts of squandering but abuse of power," the circular said of the "worsening trend" of local governments building extravagant offices, in some cases by borrowing from banks or even embezzling poverty-alleviation and disaster-relief funds.

It sets a cost limit of 4,000 yuan (US$512) per meter in the construction of ministerial level buildings.

The circular required all government officials to be frugal in spending public money since China was still a developing country.

Stringent approval procedures would be introduced to tackle the problem which hurt the party's image, Xinhua said.

The circular ordered finance and expenditure officials to thoroughly inspect construction plans of government buildings.

"The government will veto plans for any multi-functional meeting or training centers of government departments or institutions," the circular said, referring to the addition of restaurants and hotel-style accommodation in government buildings.

"Nor will funds from the government budget be allocated to renovate existing centers."

All government office buildings should be "stately", simple and practical without "luxurious" interior or exterior decoration, the circular reads.

The elevators, heating and air-conditioning facilities in these buildings must be environment-friendly and energy-efficient.

All funding for the construction of government buildings must be allocated from the central budget. Bank loans or donations under any guise are prohibited.

The circular stipulated that excessive space could be confiscated and sold if the constructions violated government rules.

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