Why seafood will not be on menu and fruit in hotel rooms at China's 19th national party congress

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out a set of eight-point rules on official behaviour in order to stamp out corruption and power abuse. Expensive meals and showy official trips are banned, among other things.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out a set of eight-point rules on official behaviour in order to stamp out corruption and power abuse. Expensive meals and showy official trips are banned, among other things.PHOTO: AFP

No freebies or fancy food will be laid out for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegates attending the all-important 19th party congress this week.

This is line with the strict party discipline enforced by President Xi Jinping since he assumed power five years ago.

"Compared to the 16th, 17th and 18th congresses, this meeting is characterised by how prudently it is run," Mr Wang Lilian, who has been in charge of delegate hospitality since the 16th meeting in 2002, said on Sunday (Oct 15).

The nearly 2,300 CCP delegates who converge in Beijing from around the country will not find free fruits in their hotel rooms or be served seafood such as prawns and sea cucumber, Mr Wang said.

The CCP's national party congress, held once every five years, is being closely watched this year as it is widely expected to cement the clout of Mr Xi, whose political ideas will be written into the party Constitution and will bear his name.

In 2013, Mr Xi laid out a set of eight-point rules on official behaviour in order to stamp out corruption and power abuse. Expensive meals and showy official trips are banned, among other things.

Since then, 1.34 million party members have been punished for corruption in what is considered to be the most extensive anti-graft drive in the country in decades.

In keeping with the order to do away with any pomp and extravagance, those huge welcome banners put up at hotels where delegates stay and elaborate flower arrangements, for example, will be gone.

 
 

The biggest difference will be in the food and rooms, said Mr Wang.

"In past editions (of the congress), delegates and staff will have fruits in their rooms. There will be none of that this time," he said.

"Food in the restaurants will be home-cooked style dishes that are not fancy and there will be no sea cucumber, and prawns. It will be buffet-style, with eight hot dishes, eight cold dishes and several types of staple food," he added.

Also gone are the extra services that delegates used to enjoy.

In the past, they were given custom-made services such as tailoring, free hair cuts and facial treatments. And there were shops that sold gifts.

"We will strictly not have any of these services this time," said Mr Wang.

Since assuming power, Mr Xi has warned, like his predecessors, that unless corruption within the CCP is tackled, it could affect the party's grip on power.

He urged party cadres and officials to keep a frugal lifestyle and resolutely oppose extravagance.

The party also drew up a slew of rules to outlaw excessive official spending.

In 2013, the official Xinhua news agency reported a ban on delicacies such as shark's fin, bird's nest and wild animal products at official reception dinners.

Cigarettes and up-market liquors were also banned.

In the ensuing years, local governments went a step further to ban alcohol completely.

South-western Guizhou province was the latest to announce this ban in August, after Zhejiang, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Anhui and Xinjiang provinces.

Civil servants from these provinces are not allowed to use public funds to buy alcohol for official receptions. They are also banned from paying for alcohol out of their own pockets for such functions.

The 19th party congress will be opened on Wednesday by Mr Xi, who as the CCP's general secretary will give a major policy speech. It will continue for another six or seven days.

On the last day, it will culminate in the unveiling of Mr Xi's new leadership team, which will run the world's second-largest economy for the next five years.

 

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