China govt official denies dozing off at meeting, says he was 'pondering with eyes closed'

WHEN a group of property owners in China's northern Shaanxi province had a meeting with county government official over a dispute over new flats, the atmosphere was anything but calm.

But the officials and property owners alike were dumbfounded when it was the deputy country head's turn to speak - but they found him leaning back in his cushy chair with his eyes shut, appearing to be asleep, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The more than 20 people attending the meeting on Wednesday were amazed that the government official in question, Shenmu country government researcher Liu Dishu, managed to seemingly doze off amid the vociferous environment, according to the SCMP.

A photo posted over the Internet showed the man resting his head on the back of his chair with his eyes closed, among a table full of other officials, SCMP reported.

"When we went in it was about 11am. The five leaders at the meeting took turns to speak," Huashang Daily newspaper quoted a petitioner as saying. "However, when it was a deputy county head's turn to speak we found him falling asleep with his head resting on the chair."

Defending himself, Mr Liu told the media on the Chinese mainland that he was not asleep, but "pondering with his eyes closed".

"I wasn't sleeping at the time, but thinking about how to solve the masses' problem," Mr Liu told the Huashang Daily. "There were a few dozen people in the room, I wouldn't have been able to fall asleep even if I wanted to.

"Pondering with my eyes closed is a habit I have had for years. At the time I was even rubbing my hands. It's untrue to say that I was sleeping."

The authorities are probing the indicent, SCMP reported.