The Seven-Story Chinese Office Block Built for Just Eight Officials

Lavish construction project in impoverished village causes outrage

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When China’s Premier Li Keqiang came into office early this year, he vowed there would be no more new government buildings constructed over the next five years — in order to crack down on ostentatious displays of government largesse. Obviously, one of Li’s subordinates in China’s central Hunan province disagreed with his edict. On Thursday, pictures of a luxury government building in Yungai — a village infamous for its poverty in Hunan province — went viral on Sina Weibo, the Chinese microblogging service, triggering a furor among Chinese netizens.

Local newspapers reported that the seven-story office, which cost Yungai village $2.46 million, was built for just eight officials working there. Tan Junwu, head of the Yungai village commission, claimed the office was built to attract business transactions and foreign investments. But his response to the online ruckus did nothing to dissipate anger over his new office.

“Many Chinese officials have a penchant for extravagance and grandiosity,” wrote one Sina Weibo user. “They enjoy unlimited power while showing no respect for the people! They only care about their own lives and do not care about the people’s suffering.”

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The penchant Chinese officials have for lavish office buildings is no secret. In 2007 local officials in Fuyang, Anhui province, finished construction of an office that resembles the White House. In September 2012 bureaucrats in a township in underdeveloped Henan province spent $4.94 million on a 10-story behemoth for just 200 staffers; while earlier this year the municipal government of Jinan, capital of eastern Shandong province, spent $657 million on a 16-story building that has made history as the second largest office building in the world after the Pentagon.

The local government in Changsha, provincial capital of Hunan, appears to have realized it has an embarrassment on its hands. “We have launched an investigation into Yungai’s luxury building,” a local government officer told TIME.

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