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Qingdao officials denies spending abuse

By Ling Yuhuan (Global Times)

09:22, April 17, 2012

Officials in Qingdao, Shandong Province, have refuted recent accusations that 4 billion yuan ($633 million) was wastefully spent on a tree-planting initiative, saying media reports have hyped the matter.

The budget for the project is actually 500 million yuan, Sun Hua, secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection at the Qingdao Urban Landscaping Bureau, told the Global Times Monday, adding that it was approved by the Qingdao Municipal People's Congress.

Sun's response came after a Web user sparked public debate over how the funds would be allocated and whether the project was carried out scientifically.

Pan Caifu, a media employee, published a post on her Sina microblog on Wednesday outlining her failed attempts to contact government departments. Her concerns included the spending details and the supervision of the project.

Pan's doubts, focusing on how the money would be spent and how the survival of the trees could be guaranteed, were echoed and supported by thousands of others online.

Sun explained that Qingdao has been working toward the honorary title of "National Forest City" since 2008, and so the government put the greening project at the top of its agenda this year.

Cao Youqiang, director of the Qingdao forestry bureau, said last month that the vegetation coverage of Qingdao is about 37 percent, ranking the last among the five candidate cities.

Another microblogger, Qiu Zhengjun, said that in some coastal areas the grass and soil had been removed to make way for tree planting.

Sun also addressed this issue, saying it was part of a separate project to replace the turf in Huiquan Plaza, not remove it.

The bureau issued a statement in February, saying the citywide greening project should be finished before mid-December this year for the 2014 International Horticultural Exposition to be held in Qingdao.

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