China to Crack Down on Lavish Public-Funded Fetes

December 29, 2010 - 7:16 AM

Beijing (AP) - China plans to crack down in the coming year on lavish parties and seminars organized by government officials, hoping to placate a public angered by corruption and accounts of sex and booze-fueled fetes held at taxpayer expense.

Along with vast improvements in quality of life for most Chinese, China's booming economic growth has led to an ever-larger gap between rich and poor and a surge in corruption that garners unwanted public criticism. The Communist leadership sees any public discontent as a threat to government stability.

Some of the parties to make headlines have seen officials die after excessive drinking at banquets. One official was arrested after diary entries he allegedly wrote appeared online describing casual sex, drinking and under-the-table payments at parties.

Lavish official tours to Las Vegas and other places cost taxpayers about 400 billion yuan ($58 billion) every year, according to state broadcaster CCTV. On one such trip several years ago, officials spent taxpayers' money on a $700-a-night Las Vegas hotel and visits to a San Francisco sex show.

It reached a point where President Hu Jintao gave a speech in April warning officials of the temptations of beautiful women, money and power.

On Wednesday, Communist party officials released their plan for stamping out corruption in 2011, which includes a crackdown on excessive partying at taxpayer expense.

Party officials had met the day before to address excessive spending on official functions as well as public money spent on cars for officials, the China Daily newspaper reported.

In recent years, China has launched numerous anti-graft campaigns. One of the biggest scandals involved the powerful party boss of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison for his role in a pension fund scandal.

The campaigns have brought down some of China's top corruption hunters as well. This year alone, the man who led China's economic crimes investigation unit was given a suspended death sentence for taking more than $1 million in bribes, and a former vice president of the Supreme People's Court was given a life sentence for embezzlement and bribery.

Since last year, a crackdown on corruption in the southwestern city of Chongqing exposed deep links between government officials and police officers who provided cover for crime syndicates. The trail led as high as the former director of the city's judicial department, Wen Qiang, who was executed after convictions involving bribery, rape, extortion and gang-related activities.

In July, the country issued rules requiring officials in government and state companies to report everything from personal assets to the business activities of spouses and children.

But some critics say graft is too deeply ingrained in the system and can't be solved with regulations.

During Tuesday's meeting, officials addressed the importance of implementing preventive measures, especially in recent years where excessive celebrations and forums have created a new form of corruption, the China Daily report said.

China has a mixed record of cracking down on corruption, but when it does the punishments are often severe. The director of China's food and drug agency was executed three years ago for approving deadly fake medicine in exchange for cash.