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Tall order for civil servants

Updated: 2014-07-21 07:03
By An Baijie ( China Daily)

Tall order for civil servants 
Many find the authorities' latest frugality standards for officials challenging, An Baijie reports.

After Zheng Dewei's 27-year-old son brought his girlfriend home early this year, the township official started planning a magnificent wedding for the young couple.

Tall order for civil servants

But for the past few months, as the date for his son's wedding draws closer, Zheng has found himself in a dilemma - how should he celebrate the occasion without breaking the government's rules on frugality for officials?

"A large number of government officials have been punished recently for throwing lavish weddings. It's obvious that the Communist Party of China is serious about promoting frugality among officials," said Zheng, who is an official from Chaohe township in Rizhao, Shandong province.

The Communist Party of China put forward the frugality rules in December 2012, a month after its new leadership was elected. The rules require officials to get close to the people by cleaning up undesirable work styles including extravagance and hedonism.

Under the rules, grand celebrations and events for weddings, birthdays and funerals are forbidden, since some officials have taken advantage of such events to pocket money from subordinates jockeying for promotions or from businesspeople seeking contracts or approval for projects.

Zheng has noticed that the punishments for officials who had broken the rules were "really harsh".

"Unlike in the past, when officials always received warnings for such behavior, many have been dismissed from their positions in this campaign," he said.

On June 30, six officials in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, were punished for accepting money during birthday celebrations and housewarming parties, according to a statement from the city's discipline inspection commission.

In one of the cases, Gao Wenqi, a village official in Liaozhong county, was removed from his post for accepting 110,900 yuan ($17,880) through a housewarming celebration.

Last year, disciplinary authorities nationwide punished 30,420 officials for violating the frugality rules, according to the country's top anti-graft watchdog.

To curb officials' involvement in grand weddings and funerals, the top anti-graft agency on June 17 published an article on its website laying out a set of rules.

According to the rules, officials are not allowed to use public funds or public assets such as government vehicles to mark weddings, birthdays or funerals. They are also forbidden to accept bribes through the events.

Some local authorities have made detailed guidelines on events. Hunan provincial authorities state that officials can invite a maximum of 200 people for wedding banquets. Authorities in Hechi, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region have stipulated that the officials can give not more than 100 yuan each as token sums for well-wishes at their colleagues' weddings.

For township official Zheng Dewei, the ban has put him at a loss - he had given substantial amounts of such money for his colleagues' weddings in the past and he will most certainly incur significant losses if they do not attend his son's wedding in turn.

"There's been a recent buzzword for this: Guan Bu Liao Sheng (meaning that officials cannot not get by)," Zheng said.

Xia Huan, a civil servant who has worked for six years at the Beijing municipal government, said that officials are facing many problems including slow wage increases, a flawed evaluation system and long working hours.

"Even though we are not satisfied, many of us don't dare to complain in public. If we do, netizens will mock and criticize us," he said.

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