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UPDATED: January 29, 2014 NO.6 FEBRUARY 6, 2014
Practicing Frugality
Chinese authorities remain determined in their fight against extravagance
By Yin Pumin

The regulations, which contain 65 items in 12 sections, outline the proper management of funds in various fields, including official travels, receptions, meetings, as well as government vehicles and buildings.

They are meant to guide Party and government departments to practice frugality and reject extravagance, according to a statement issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council.

In the wake of the November regulations, rules on official receptions and officials' funerals were also issued in December 2013.

The regulations on official receptions list 38 banned practices and impose a stringent cap on the expenses for reception banquets. It is stipulated that a hosting unit can hold only one dinner for visitors if it is necessary for their work. At most, three workers at the concerned hosting unit are allowed to participate in the dinner if the number of visitors is fewer than 10. Expensive dishes and those cooked with protected wild animals are prohibited at such dinners, as are cigarettes and fine liquors.

Expenses for reception events must be included and listed separately in annual budgets of government departments so that they can be scrutinized, according to the document.

In light of the regulations on funerals, officials are asked to set examples by keeping them simple and frugal. They are also forbidden from taking advantage of the occasion to collect condolence money.

The reasoning behind the requirements is that funerals are increasingly a platform for some officials to show off wealth and connections, with the degree of opulence and the number of mourners symbolizing the "achievements" of the dead, and setting a benchmark for competition among the living.

"The regulations provide a clear basis for stopping corrupt customs among officials, an example that can be followed by the public," said Xu Yuebin, a professor at the School of Social Development and Public Policy of Beijing Normal University. He believes that the regulations will help prevent corruption among officials and cut the use of natural resources such as land and wood.

Wu Hui, an associate professor of governance at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said that the bans by the central authorities on a wide range of issues such as large-scale government-funded TV galas, luxurious official buildings and vehicles, as well as expensive gifts during festivals, are effective in closing loopholes that corrupt officials could take advantage of.

On January 15, a communiqué issued after the Third Plenary Session of the (CCDI) pledged name-and-shame measures for officials if they were caught violating relevant regulations and bans on spending public money on expensive dinners, gifts and tours, visiting private clubs, as well as accepting money or gifts in any form from their subordinates and other interested parties.

Capital example

On January 15, the Beijing Municipal Government issued an order to close all private clubs and high-end entertainment venues in public parks.

The campaign was launched after the CCDI released a set of regulations last December, which ordered officials to shun high-end clubs to avoid extravagant practices and power-for-money or power-for-sex deals.

In recent years, some high-end private clubs have been opened in ancient buildings and parks and they cater to some officials' pursuits of luxury and privacy, Zhao Yuqi, an official from the CPC Beijing Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection, said at a briefing.

Kong Fanzhi, former Director of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, said that clubs in parks and historical buildings are a clear invasion on public resources by the privileged.

"Parks and historical sites are public treasures, which should be open to everyone, rather than just a privileged few," Kong said, adding that operating clubs in historical buildings also goes against local regulations on cultural relic protection.

According to the CPC Beijing Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection, 24 clubs have been targeted in the recent campaign.

The commission has also issued a notice ordering all officials in Beijing to sign a pledge undertaking not to enter or join the clubs, and to receive supervision from the Party and the public.

In an interview with China Central Television, China's state broadcaster, Xin Ming, another professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said that more details on defining corrupt practices at private clubs should be added to the regulations to make enforcement easier.

Zeng Yuanji, Vice Dean of the Graduate School at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, agreed. He suggested authorities investigate why such clubs were built inside public parks, especially since the construction was under the supervision of park management departments.

"The fundamental root of such misconduct should be found and eradicated to curb corruption," Zeng said.

Email us at: yinpumin@bjreview.com

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