China official sacked after belittling compatriots at banquet

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese official has been sacked after an online video showed him complaining about the ingratitude of ordinary Chinese while he ate lobster and drank expensive liquor, in the latest instance of government excess to spark popular anger.

A five-minute video, widely circulated on Chinese social media sites, captured Liang Wenyong, the Communist Party secretary of Gushanzi town, in the north-eastern province of Hebei, as he consumed costly food and drink while castigating fellow Chinese.

"They have rice in their hands and pork in their mouths and still they curse you," the portly Liang said in the video, shot secretly in May but posted on the Internet this month. "This is what the common folk are like. They are shameless and you can't give them face."

Scrolling text in the video said the banquet for a handful of officials, which included seafood, expensive liquor and cigarettes, cost nearly 10,000 yuan (S$2,000).

State broadcaster China Radio International said on Tuesday that county disciplinary authorities confirmed the video was authentic and that Liang was removed from his post indefinitely soon after it went viral.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has mounted an aggressive drive to root out graft after taking office in March and has focused on extravagance and waste, seeking to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the ruling Communist Party.

While China regularly announces anti-corruption campaigns, this one appears to have more bite than usual, although experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will make a real difference. It is not the first time officials have been sacked after images of their misdeeds roused public ire on the Internet.

Provincial official Yang Dacai, known as "watch brother", was jailed for 14 years this month after pictures of him grinning and wearing expensive watches at the scene of a fatal accident sparked online outrage and led to a corruption probe.

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