BEIJING - A giant vase installed in Beijing's Tiananmen Square ahead of a national holiday has met with scathing criticism from Chinese internet users after a newspaper revealed its cost on Sunday.
An enormous psychedelic-looking red pot - 13 metres high and 11 metres in diameter - topped with huge fake flowers and imitation peaches was installed this week on the square, the symbolic centre of the Chinese state.
But it came at a cost of more than 570,000 yuan ($93,000), up 8,000 yuan from similar displays the previous two years, according to the state-run Beijing Youth Daily.
The cost prompted critical comments among Chinese internet users - even though the report said that the overall number of flowers used around Beijing for China's National Day had halved.
"Who permitted spending taxpayer's money in this way?" one user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, wrote.
Another user wrote: "570,000! That money could be put to much better use."
The report said that some money-saving measures, including the use of 800,000 small flower pots in the square and surrounding streets, compared to 1,000,000 last year, had been introduced.
China's new President Xi Jinping has touted a campaign to reduce government waste, introducing a ban on new government buildings and guidelines for banquets, after reports of corrupt officials indulging in wasteful lunches and unnecessary building projects.
A county in eastern China built a giant copper sculpture of a puffer fish at a cost of around 70 million yuan, reports said this week, arousing angry comments about government extravagance.
Tiananmen Square usually gets a makeover ahead of China's National Day which falls on October 1, and is a platform for the ruling Communist party to showcase its achievements and drum up nationalist sentiment.
The festival sees thousands of tourists from across China descend on the square, where Mao's preserved body is on display in a dedicated mausoleum.
A yellow crane lowered a fresh image of Mao - albeit identical to its predecessor - which stares out over the square, into position on Saturday as guards watched on, pictures showed.
The area around Tiananmen - which means "gate of heavenly peace" - has been the site of key events in Chinese history, including Mao's announcement of the establishment of the People's Republic of China, and a government-led crackdown on student protesters in 1989 which saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed.