China bans delegates at annual congress from holding banquets amid graft concerns

A security guard standing in front of The Great Hall of the People before the upcoming opening sessions of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 2, 2014. -- PHOTO:
A security guard standing in front of The Great Hall of the People before the upcoming opening sessions of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 2, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China has banned delegates to its annual rubber-stamp Parliament from holding banquets, an official said on Tuesday as the government tries to improve its image following regular corruption scandals.

Delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC), which meets to formally approve policies decided by the ruling Communist party, are also barred from exchanging gifts and will no longer be served "expensive food, wine, and beverages" at their buffet meals, Congress spokesman Fu Ying told a press conference.

China's leaders have stressed austerity as they try to rein in extravagant feasts and luxury spending, with President Xi Jinping vowing to crack down on endemic corruption among high- and low-ranking officials.

Several senior personnel have been ousted on corruption charges in recent years, while regular reports of low-level malfeasance are a major source of popular discontent with the authorities.

Mr Xi's calls for austerity have reportedly affected high-end restaurants and caused a slowdown in sales of luxury goods, but critics say that without deeper reforms China will not be able to tackle more serious forms of graft.

At the same time China has cracked down on activists who demanded legal reforms which would require officials to disclose their financial assets, with one activist jailed for four years in January.

At the annual congress Prime Minister Li Keqiang will deliver a work report that is expected to touch on official corruption, environmental problems including hazardous smog, economic reforms and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

It will be closely watched for the announcement of the annual economic growth target - given at 7.5 per cent for last year - a figure which analysts follow for insight into the leadership's thinking about the economy's performance.

The announcement of the annual official defence budget - which has seen double-digit increases for decades - will also be prominent.

At the press conference ahead of the NPC, Ms Fu said it was likely to pass a revision to an environmental law aimed at tackling chronic pollution, but did not give details.

Register here to get free digital access to The Straits Times until Aug 9, 2015.
Comments