Blogger Han flags post-quake pledge

08:21, January 24, 2011      

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A government building complex in this capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province has been in the spotlight since a renowned Chinese blogger made the allegation that the local government failed to keep its promise to sell it to fund post-quake reconstruction.

In the wake of the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Chengdu announced that it would sell its new administrative center in the city's southern suburbs and donate all the proceeds to the quake zone.

The announcement was widely covered by the media and received praise from the public.

However, Han Han, one of China's most popular bloggers, wrote on his blog on Thursday that a friend informed him the Chengdu government had gone ahead and moved into the center without publicizing the event.

Han said he contacted the general office of the Chengdu government to inquire why the center had not been sold and the man who took his call said he was unclear about the issue. When pressed as to which government official could provide an answer, the man said he did not know and hung up.

Han then called the mayor's hotline - 12345 - five times. The line was always busy, so he left a message for the mayor, requesting an answer. As of Thursday, he had yet to receive one.

Han's blog has widely circulated online since then.

"Han Han's article has focused netizens' attention on the almost forgotten center," said local taxi driver Xu Jiao.

"Shortly after Chengdu announced that it would sell the center in 2008, some passengers visiting the city would ask me where it was. People then stopped talking about it, even when we drive past the center."

The 8.0-magnitude quake, which struck on May 12, 2008, left 4,304 people dead, 33,506 wounded and more than 1 million homeless in Chengdu alone.

The city's economic losses were calculated to be more than 120 billion yuan ($18 billion), He Huazhang, chief of the city's publicity department, said at a press conference on July 16, 2008.

Fiscally, Chengdu needed at least 150 billion yuan for its reconstruction efforts. The city was tens of billions of yuan short, He said.

Drastic measures were taken to cut down on expenditure and amass funds for reconstruction. He announced at the press conference that the government would sell its new administrative center for the reconstruction effort

The center costs 1.2 billion yuan and was completed at the end of 2007 after a three-year construction project. It covers an area of 17 hectares and has a capacity for more than 5,000 people.

Prior to the quake, most of the departments under the Communist Party of China Chengdu committee and the Chengdu government itself had moved into the new center. After the tragedy occurred, the city made the decision to sell the center, He said.

At the time, the announcement won the support of residents. Since then, no one has heard any news about the actual sale of the complex.

As the lives of people in the quake zone have yet to improve, top officials in the city have shunned publicity about the center, according to an anonymous official of the city government's information office.

Refuting Han's allegation that the government had moved into the center, an official of the city government's general office told the Nanjing-based Modern Express that most of the government departments in the center had already moved in before He announced the government's decision to sell it.

As several construction projects got under way in the city center at the end of last year, a few government departments were temporarily housed in the center, the official said. Like the other departments that had moved into the center before He's announcement regarding the building, they, too, will eventually move out, he said.

The city government also stated on Saturday that, excluding Building No 4, whose offices are rented by the government, all buildings in the center had been sold for 1.5 billion yuan and the proceeds of the sale had gone to a special account for post-quake reconstruction, the local news portal scnews.newssc.org reported.

Source: China Daily(By Huang Zhiling)
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