Watchdog urges public to report corruption as holidays near

China’s top anti-graft watchdog is intensifying its crackdown on bureaucracy and extravagance with a website to encourage the public to report such abuses, as the country prepares to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day holiday next week. [Special coverage]

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China set up a special platform on its website to encourage the public to monitor and report officials who allegedly violate the “eight-point” guideline. The guideline, issued in 2012, calls for increased inspections to clean up undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.

The platform has gathered 63 cases in the first week, including five in North China’s Shanxi Province and three in Beijing. None have been found in the central government, State-owned enterprises, financial institutions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Among the cases, an environmental protection official in Beijing was warned by the Party for using government funds to travel abroad. An official from Beijing’s Tongzhou district was given a severe warning for distributing subsidies to village officials against rules. And four Shanxi officials were warned for accepting an invitation to a company affair and drinking liquor during office hours.

“Since China launched the far-reaching campaign to root out corruption in 2013, the number of banquets using government funds has sharply declined. At the beginning, we thought it might be a temporary campaign. The campaign turned out to be more serious, which deterred us from engaging in corruption,” a division-level official surnamed Zheng from the Jinan, Shandong Province government told the Global Times on Monday.

Zheng’s views were echoed by another government employee surnamed Zhao from Chongqing municipality, who said that “when we offered to treat officials, they would decline. When such meals were unavoidable, we would choose to eat at small local restaurants or government canteens over expensive restaurants,” Zhao said.

Many civil servants said that since the campaign was launched, they have had more time to spend with their families and were tired of “endless dinners and drinks.”

No more banquets

The campaign has been a blow to China’s restaurant sector.

However, analysts said an economy driven by corruption would be unhealthy and even detrimental to the country.

Wen Yi, a former employee at a three-star hotel in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, recently lost his job because the hotel he worked for went bankrupt.

“Our hotel used to perform very well because of large-scale government banquets. After the campaign was launched, we’ve only hosted small conferences or served as a venue for training for company recruitment,” said Wen.

In 2015, Liulaogen Hall, established by comedian-turned-showbiz-tycoon Zhao Benshan, was shut down for “unknown reasons.” The China News Service said the anti-corruption campaign was behind the closure, citing one of the hall’s employees.

The Hall featured a two-storey restaurant and six courtyards, with the most expensive dish costing 2,000 yuan.

The campaign also hit liquor merchants hard. A Chongqing shop owner said that he had to close his business because orders from hotels had dropped sharply.

Foreign media had previously described the drop in the share price of Moutai, a high-end liquor elites offer as a “gift,” a sign that investors may be taking China’s anti-graft campaign seriously.

However, some luxury hotels are seeking ways to reinvent themselves. Zheng said Shandong Hotel, a five-star hotel with function rooms for conferences, exhibitions and banquets, now offers buffets and coupons to the public.

CCDI said that since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has punished 240,000 people for violating the “eight-point” guideline.

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