China bans elaborate military banquets

Move by Vice President Xi Jinping is latest attempt by Communist party to combat corruption in government ranks.

    China has banned senior military officers from holding alcohol-fuelled banquets or from staying in luxury hotels when on work trips.

    The decision was the latest move by Xi Jinping, the vice president of the Communist Party, to fight corruption, state media reported on Saturday.

    "It gives the signal that officials in China are serious about getting rid of the appearance of corruption and abuse of office ... But really, this is just cosmetic"

    - Gordon Chang, analyst

    Receptions will also no longer feature welcome banners, red carpets, flowers, honour guards, performances or souvenirs, the powerful Central Military Commission, which Xi oversees, has decreed, major newspapers reported.

    Officers will have to cut back on both the number and length of inspection tours, overseas visits, meetings and reports, according to the new rules.

    Speakers at meetings should avoid "empty talk", while the use of vehicles equipped with sirens will be "rigorously controlled during official visits in order to prevent public disturbances".

    "Additionally, commission officials are required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes."

    The rules echo similar demands made of party officials by Xi earlier this month.

    "It gives the signal that officials in China are serious about getting rid of the appearance of corruption and abuse of office," Gordon Chang, an expert on China, told Al Jazeera.

    "But really, this is just cosmetic and doesn't deal with the fundamental issues. I think the Chinese people will see through this. Of course it's a step in the right direction, but it's a very small step."

    String of scandals
     
    The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.

    China intensified a crackdown on rampant corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business.

    But it has crept back in recent years due to a lack of transparency, checks and balances and perceived moral decay.

    A senior officer, Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, was sacked earlier this year in what Hong Kong media have said would be the biggest military corruption scandal since the Communists swept to power in 1949, though details have not been officially announced.
     
    Xi, who takes over as president from Hu Jintao at the annual meeting of parliament in March, warned shortly after becoming party boss that the country risked unrest if graft were not tackled.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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