IMAGES OF MOSCOW
Kremlin-like government compound stirs controversy
Looking up at the churchlike architecture, complete with golden domes, glaring and glitzy, you might imagine you had just arrived at the Kremlin, the official residence of the Russian president in the heart of Moscow.
However, the piles of honeycomb coal briquettes and vendors selling roasted sweets by the roadside, as well as the familiar sooty smog, soon drag you back to reality, and you remember it’s a government building in the hills to the west of Beijing.
Covering about 6,000 square meters in the district of Mentougou, the “Kremlin-like buildings” seem to most resemble the Cathedral of the Annunciation, which is located in Cathedral Square in the Kremlin complex. However, there are no crosses atop the domes in Mentougou, and the structure has been built strictly for use by local official bodies, according to the district government.
All four of the Russian- style buildings were completed recently, and some office space has already been put to official use. Among the first bodies to move in are the local meteorological station, the earthquake monitoring and prediction center, the water supply dispatching center for the Yongding River and the maintenance and administration center of a local square.
Despite the grand design, the construction project “adopted economic materials and did not break the central government’s five-year ban on the construction of government offices”, according to the local government.
The official explanation for the construction project is that it was necessary to improve the environment and replace office buildings that were demolished due to shantytown transformation.
However, not all the residents of Mentougou are happy with the new buildings.
“Looking at the fancy decorations of these office buildings, the government might get some respect for allocating the limited funds to medical, housing and pension services for the public,” said Li Min, a local resident.
“The higher and fancier the government buildings are, the less respect they get from the public.”
The government has not released details of the cost of construction, nor the philosophy behind the design.
Beijing is not alone in producing impressive buildings that imitate world-famous landmarks. Grand government buildings have mushroomed across the country in recent years, with oversized offices and fancy lighting.
Most of them are “landmarks” for their local areas, but have provoked disapproval and dissatisfaction among the public.
A government office building in Fuyang, Anhui province, became famous overnight thanks to its resemblance to the White House, while a local people’s court in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, stood out for its resemblance to the US Capitol.
According to Jia Guizi, deputy head of the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences, the design and approval processes for any such projects should be made public, as should the details of the finances involved, so as to prevent the misuse of public power.
Wu Yiming, a sociology professor at Nanjing Normal University, said the local disciplinary inspection department should attach more importance to information supplied by the public and media, which can assist with monitoring such projects.
The central government has banned local officials from wasting money on expensive architectural projects, insisting instead that limited funds and resources should be used to develop the economy and improve people’s lives.
The directive is meant to forbid luxurious interiors or the expansion of office space under the guise of repair work, and is part of a larger effort by the government to control waste and corruption.
A “Kremlin-like” structure in Mentougou district to the west of Beijing has been built as office space for local government bodies.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation is located in Cathedral Square in the Kremlin complex, Moscow, Russia.