Chinese county bans banquets to cut waste

BEIJING • A county in south-west China has banned its residents from hosting elaborate banquets as a way to reduce unnecessary expenses and food waste.

A "banquet ban" team was established in February last year in Puding county in Guizhou province.

The county said the problem was getting out of hand. "There were too many banquets," said a statement by the Puding commission .

It said that each household on average spent about one-third of its annual income on cash gifts. To raise the money to provide cash gifts, some villagers had to sell crops they had earmarked as food for the family. Some even borrowed money at high rates to pay for the gifts.

"For the hosts, the banquets became a method of raising money, but for those attending, the practice resulted in a huge financial burden that led to many people suffering," the statement said.

Puding has a population of more than 470,000 and is one of six counties or county-level districts in the city of Anshun, which is home to about 2.3 million people.

The statement noted that some locals who are working in other towns and cities as migrant workers were pressured to return home regularly to attend banquets.

At one point, banquets were held so frequently that some locals decided the only way to avoid the pressure to attend was to relocate to distant towns and cities.

Mr Zhang Qingsong, from Tangyue village in Anshun's Pingba district, was one of them. He returned to Tangyue in 2014 after more than a decade away. "Everybody held banquets. If you worked in my hometown, it was almost certain that you would become poorer and poorer. The money you made would not be enough to provide all the cash gifts," said the 44-year-old.

Mr Wang Hai, Communist Party secretary of a village in Anshun, said people who attended the banquets would try to host one of their own in order to recoup their money.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese county bans banquets to cut waste'. Print Edition | Subscribe