Disaster shelter gets a controversial facelift

BEIJING – Experts have slammed bosses at a Haidian district park after they converted an emergency earthquake shelter into golf courses.

Shuguang Park, which had acted as one of 33 disaster collection points across the capital, is now largely fenced off and houses two golf courses, two restaurants and tennis courts.

Managers say the revamp is aimed at increasing revenue to pay for the area’s upkeep, yet critics argue it is an “invasion of public resources” and could put nearby residents at risk.

“This case raises serious questions about the operation and management of disaster shelters,” said sociologist Xia Xueluan at Peking University. “The government has finished allocating these areas and should continue to hand over enough funds for their operation, so managers won’t exploit the land to make money.”

The rent generated by the new businesses on the park could add up to as much as 12 million yuan ($1.86 million) a year, Beijing Times reported.

“It’s an invasion of public resources. A public park and a golf course are totally different in nature,” Xia said. “(A change in the) business operation of the park needs permission from the industrial and commercial bureau, otherwise it’s illegal.”

Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, agreed and added: “Such a project goes against the original objective of the park and is unreasonable.”

Calls by METRO to the park management company, Beijing Xinxing Shuguang Technology and Trade, went unanswered on Sunday.

However, the company’s Party Secretary Han Jianguo told Beijing Times that the area will still provide refuge in the event of an emergency. “Tents will be set up on the golf courses to accommodate residents if an earthquake happens,” he said.

A staff member in the Shuguang community office said all of the directors who are familiar with the situation do not work on weekends. He refused to reveal their cell phone numbers.

Shuguang community has the second largest population in Haidian. The park, which lies just within the Fourth Ring Road, was built purposely to act as the area’s sole disaster collection point in 2008.

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