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No lottery tickets, no welfare funds
By Yan Jie (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-18 07:48

A community in a Chinese inland city had taken an unusual approach in promoting lottery ticket sales by threatening residents that they would not receive their monthly welfare money unless they spent 10 percent of it on lottery tickets.

However, last week the local government ordered the resident committee, which is responsible for the welfare money distribution, to stop the practice. The action came after a media report on the forced lottery ticket sales.

Since October, the resident committee of the Wencheng community in Suining city of the southwestern province of Sichuan had been pressuring some local residents to buy the tickets, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency, citing an unnamed resident.

The residents' benefits only sustain the lowest level of living standards.

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"I did not expect that they would tell me, 'No cash if no tickets bought this month'," said 80 year-old Wu Yuhua, a local resident. "I had no other option but to comply."

Her family of four relied on her son's income from a part-time job and the basic social benefits of 185 yuan ($27) per month.

Many of the benefit receivers had shown their displeasure with the committee before turning to the media for help early this month. The residents said the committee ignored their complaints.

Of more than 1,800 households in the community, 323 are receiving a total of 45,000 yuan in monthly social benefits, or an average of 140 yuan each.

Some of them buy lottery tickets from time to time, but the majority has never done this, according to Xinhua.

Wang Surong, head of the residents' committee, was suspended from her post after an investigation by the city's bureau of civil affairs confirmed the residents' complaints. Working staff responsible for the lottery sales in the community have been sacked as well.

After this incident, the bureau issued an emergency notice forbidding the requirement of buying lottery tickets as a prerequisite to receiving welfare money.

The city of Suining has been assigned by the provincial government to sell an increasing number of lottery tickets.

"The sales target for 2008 was the equivalent of more than 40 million yuan," said Lei Ming, deputy director of the city's civil affairs bureau. "It is more than 50 million yuan for this year."

The city never met the target in past years, added Lei.

The bureau has launched a push to promote the lotteries in the last three months of this year, according to Hu Xiaoli, another official at the bureau.

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