Watch What You Eat Over the Holidays, China Tells Officials

By Reuters 11 September 2015

BEIJING — Chinese officials have to watch what they eat and where they go over two upcoming holidays to make sure they don’t break frugality rules, and regret after the fact will not be accepted as an excuse, China’s top graft-buster said on Friday.

Since President Xi Jinping’s appointment in 2013, the government has cracked down on official corruption and extravagance in China, where the flaunting of personal and often illicit wealth and wasteful public spending have led to widespread criticism of the party.

Gift giving is particularly popular over holidays, such as mooncakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival later this month. The first week of October is the National Day holiday.

In a letter written to more than 300,000 officials at central government departments and state-owned industries, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said that cadres needed to be aware they represented the Communist Party.

“Having a ‘clean’ holiday starts with you; steadfastly do not eat what you are not supposed to eat, steadfastly decline gifts you’re not supposed to accept and steadfastly don’t go to places you’re not supposed to,” reads the letter, excerpts of which were released by the graft watchdog.

Since the corruption crackdown began, Chinese media has been filled with stories of officials downing bottles of expensive imported liquor, carousing with prostitutes at private clubs, or playing golf at exclusive courses, often using public money.

Serious cases are prosecuted, but less serious ones generally result in a slap on the wrist, like a demotion.

The party is using such a novel and “homely” way as this letter to drive home its point to make sure officials understand potential corruption problems must be nipped in the bud before they become more serious, the watchdog said.

“Everyone feels regret when we see officials expressing penitence during the course of an investigation, but there is no drug to cure regret in this world. Once something has happened, it’s too late for regrets,” an unidentified watchdog official was quoted as saying.

The anti-graft campaign has over the past two years or so dragged down sales of high-end products from the fiery sorghum-based liquor, baijiu, to mooncakes, both traditional popular gifts for smoothing business and official ties.