President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring the classical style of architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings in the nation’s capital, a White House official said on Monday, Bloomberg reports.
Instead of outright mandating that all newly constructed federal buildings are built in the classical style, the order states rather simply that they must be “beautiful.”
The other specific architectural styles allowed, as mentioned in an emailed statement from the office of the White House press secretary, are the Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco styles. On the other hand, styles akin to brutalism and modernism, which became popular during the mid-20th Century, will not be preferred.
In accordance with the order, a “Council for Improving Federal Civic Architecture” will be created to recommend updates to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) architectural guidelines.
For months, the administration has been drafting this executive order, according to Bloomberg. On top of that, an early version that would have prohibited modernist design triggered a strong rebuke from the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates,” the AIA said in a statement. “Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”
In spite of this rebuke, the White House official said that polling revealed a vast majority of Americans prefer traditional designs and said some modern structures weren’t easily identifiable as public buildings, according to Bloomberg. New construction should command respect by the general public and not just architectural elites, the official said.
The GSA, before selecting a design, will also be required by the executive order to seek design input from the general public and future staff of federal buildings.
There are some Democrats, though, who have bashed the White House’s measure to enforce a unified and classic architectural design across federal buildings, with Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) introducing legislation that would prohibit the GSA from blocking modernist designs.
“Imposing a preferred architectural style for federal facilities runs counter to our nation’s democratic traditions,” Titus wrote in a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. “Attempting to implement this misguided mandate from Washington, D.C., by circumventing Congress and gutting decades of GSA policy and practice without any public notice or hearing is even worse.”
With 30 days until Trump leaves the White House, he and his team have been trying to solidify a legacy that will outlive him. This rather small but consequential executive order will likely impact the way Washington, DC and other places are adorned with grand federal buildings in the coming years.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world
China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.
Key findings of the report are below.
“Persuaded to return”
According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.
Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.
The Nine Forbidden Countries
China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.
According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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