China sacks city police chief over endangered salamander feast

State media reported last month that the officers were allegedly eating the giant salamander (example pictured), the world's largest amphibian, at a seafood restaurant. -- PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE 
State media reported last month that the officers were allegedly eating the giant salamander (example pictured), the world's largest amphibian, at a seafood restaurant. -- PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE 

BEIJING (Reuters) - A police chief in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has been sacked after colleagues roughed up a group of reporters who had tried to report on a group of officers feasting on a giant salamander, an endangered animal in China.

State media reported last month that the officers were allegedly eating the giant salamander, the world's largest amphibian, at a seafood restaurant.

Some of the police officers slapped and attacked three reporters who were trying to photograph the banquet, snatching away their mobile phones and cameras, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a respected newspaper in southern China.

The case was one of the strangest to come to light since President Xi Jinping launched a nationwide crackdown on graft and government excess after coming to power in 2013.

The Shenzhen police said in a statement on their official microblog late on Monday that an investigation had shown that the giant salamander in question had been raised in captivity.

That meant "there was no such problem of an endangered giant salamander", it said.

The feast, worth a total of 5,025 yuan (S$1,089), was also not paid for out of public funds and none of the attendees came in official vehicles, the Shenzhen police statement said.

However, Wang Yuanping, the east Shenzhen precinct chief, did not provide accurate information about the investigation and abused his power in ordering four officers to stand guard outside the restaurant, it said.

"His actions constituted an abuse of power and he broke discipline with his trickery," the statement said in announcing Wang had been fired.

A compensation agreement had also been reached with the reporters who had equipment broken in the spat, it said. Twelve officers who had been suspended have been reinstated.

China's leadership has called for Communist Party cadres and officials to forgo elaborate banquets and pricey junkets. Corruption and abuse of power are a major source of public discontent with the ruling party.

Despite the growing crackdown on corruption, Chinese media are generally only allowed to cover a carefully selected number of cases that are then used to act as a warning to other officials to behave.