May 10, 2007 / 2:27 PM / 10 years ago

Mayor frets over braggart billboards

BEIJING (Reuters) - Billboards that promote luxury and indulgence undermine the goal of maintaining harmony between the rich and the poor, Beijing's mayor complained, according to the Xinhua news agency Thursday.

Billboards promoting expensive villas, cars and other luxury goods plaster Beijing, often on the high walls that are erected to hide building sites and the demolition of older houses.

"Many use exaggerated terms that encourage luxury and self-indulgence which are beyond the reach of low-income groups and are therefore not conducive to harmony in the capital," Xinhua cited mayor Wang Qishan as telling a seminar on outdoor advertising.

Words like "supreme luxury," "utmost prestige," "extreme comfort" and "hedonism" frequently appear in advertisements for apartments that sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,299) per square meter, as well as for townhouses and villas costing millions, Xinhua noted.

Other promotions appear slightly stranger, at least to foreign eyes. Luxury developments with the English names of "Inner the City," "Buffalo Town" or "Ambassy Court" have sprouted near the embassy districts, while other billboards proclaim that villa owners can live like nobles or emperors.

"Be a foreigner's landlord!" crowed one advertisement -- in Chinese only -- for buyers to invest in a new apartment block in a Beijing development.

Advertisements of better taste and quality would help improve Beijing's image ahead of the Olympics, the Beijing committee of China's top advisory body has recommended, Xinhua said.

It also proposed that advertisers not overstate wealth and luxury, which might escalate hostility between the poor and the rich.

The per capita disposable income of Beijing's urban residents averaged 5,900 yuan in the first quarter of this year, according to the municipal statistics bureau.

Adding injury to insult, many billboards are of poor quality and have collapsed in high winds, hurting and even killing people, Xinhua added.

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