CHONGQING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- China's netizens have laid siege to luxury primary school built with charity money to resemble a European chateau.
The China Overseas Three Gorges Primary School, built with a donation of 3.5 million yuan (US$512,250) from a Hong Kong-based company, opened in Yunyang County, of Chongqing, on Wednesday.
However, its chateau-style appearance -- including a steepled roof tower and corner turret -- and first-class educational facilities have drawn strong criticism in on-line forums for their extravagance.
In a online poll on sohu.com, about 8,400 netizens expressed disapproval while more than 4,100 supported it as of 9 pm Thursday.
"What a waste. The money is enough to build 17 normal schools," said a comment from "WS_dsd".
"This is completely unnecessary as many other children have no place to study at," said a posting from Guangdong.
"We need to invest more in teaching quality instead of fancy buildings" said another posting from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"I wish for more high quality schools in the rural area so that kids in the countryside can have education conditions equal to those in the cities", said "rammpp."
However, the 531 students were delighted by their new school, which overlooks the Yangtze River and sits by a 1,700-year-old temple.
"It's so beautiful. I want to draw the great river, the temple, the trees and hills, our school and everything," sixth grader Liu Chao was quoted as saying by Chongqing Evening News.
"I used to walk hours along mountain road to get to school. Now I can live in school," fourth grader Ran Haiyan told the newspaper.
Ran was also glad to find toilets on each floor.
The parents pay just 30 yuan a year for books for their children. School accommodation costs 1,400 a year, or 8 yuan a day.
"We want to provide the best for the children," said Zhang Shenming, of China Overseas Group, which donated the money for the school.
The development group, which also constructed the school, had donated more than 110 million yuan it charities and had built a school each year since 2005 in China, said Zhang.
The company worked with Chinese education charity Project Hope tto find the site and get approval from the county government.
Project Hope has helped to build 15,444 primary schools and 14,000 libraries across China since 1989. The project also supported the education of 3.38 million students.
Phone calls made to China Youth Development Foundation, which runs Project Hope, remained unanswered Thursday.
However, Li Hongyi, county party chief, called the donation "selfless and respectable," according to a press release from COHL.
The school in Yunyang county was specially built for children of families relocated from the Three Gorges Reservoir area and the most of the students came from resettled families, said Zhang.
A total of 160,000 people in Yunyang, one of China's most poverty-stricken counties, had to relocate to make way for the Three Gorges Reservoir, China's largest flood-control and hydropower project.
It can hold 22.1 billion cubic meters of water and is intended to curb flooding of the Yangtze River.
The reservoir led to the resettlement of more than 1 million people. (Xinhua) Updated: 2009-08-28 13:27