China state firm's sumptuous office causes outrage

7th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A state-owned drug firm in China has caused online outrage for allegedly building offices that appear to mimic France's Versailles palace, complete with gold-tinted walls and chandeliers.

Photos posted online purporting to be the offices of a subsidiary of the Harbin Pharmaceutical Group show meeting rooms decked out with sumptuous Chinese-style furniture, with intricate, golden carvings on the walls.

One photo shows a white, grand piano in a vast, empty room, put on a floor that looks like it is made of yellow and brown marble, and another reveals people posing under a huge, golden structure made up of four marble pillars.

Chinese web users have lashed out furiously at the state-owned firm -- based in northeast China's Heilongjiang province -- for its lavish spending on the building.

Li Xiaomeng, a well-known journalist for Chinese state television, pointed out on her microblog that according to finance ministry statistics, state-owned firms made a total profit of nearly two trillion yuan ($313 billion) in 2010.

"But they only handed in five percent of that (to the treasury)," she said.

"It is said state-owned companies are the people's firms and the people should know how the state-owned companies spend their profits. Is the 'palace' what the people would like to see?" she said.

One web user with the online pseudonym "Fat Cat and Silly Bear" said in his microblog: "I now understand why drugs are sold so dear!"

The Beijing Business Today newspaper quoted an unnamed spokesperson for the company as confirming the pictures were genuine, but said they were of an art museum located in the same building as the firm's offices.

"The design and decoration of the office's section are very simple. But we hoped the design of the museum would have some sense of art," the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

However, photos of the museum posted on the company's website showed an area of white-painted walls and brown wooden floors, and did not look anything like the opulence seen in the pictures released online.

Officials with the company were not available for comment when contacted by AFP.

© 2011 AFP

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