BEIJING - The East China officials exposed earlier this week for their corruption should have seen it coming. The country's anti-graft campaign has ratcheted up to new levels with Chinese New Year approaching.
With this period being an obvious hotbed for corruption amid all the festive gift-giving, it is fitting that the anti-graft agency in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao on Monday detailed the misconduct of 10 corruption cases, mainly involving the spending of public money on extravagant banquets, sightseeing tours and gifts.
Qingdao's latest case, however, is by no means the exception, at a time when localities around the country are taking similar moves one after another in the increasingly high-profile, sweeping anti-bureaucracy and anti-extravagance campaign.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has released a notice ordering beefed-up supervision and welcoming tip-offs from citizens and media on exuberant spending and gift acceptance during the forthcoming Spring Festival holiday, which lasts from January 31 to February 6.
The discipline inspection commission in the northern province of Hebei said over the weekend that it would send inspectors to government offices, hotels, private clubs and shopping malls to sniff out official corruption around the Lunar New Year.
Around this period in past years, many officials have spent public funds on extravagant parties and banquets, and received or sent out cash gifts, shopping cards as well as fancy physical goods.
Many have also attended dinners and other activities at high-end private clubs and recreational facilities at others' invitations. There have been examples of government agencies breaching rules by handing out excessive bonuses and allowances to their staff.
Since Xi Jinping took the helm of the CPC in November 2012, however, the Party has targeted not only "tigers" and "flies" (metaphors for senior and low-ranking corrupt officials), but also bureaucratic and extravagant work styles among all government workers.
When addressing the third plenary session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Tuesday, Xi stressed zero tolerance of graft and promised to seriously punish every corrupt official being caught.
Xi also urged Party officials to follow a selfless work style, divide public and personal matters clearly, give priority to public matters, discreetly wield their power and lead open and honest lives.
"Problems in work style are always related to public money and official power. Not one cent of public money should be squandered and not a slight bit of official power should be abused for personal ends," he said.
The refinement of working practices should be routine in the long term, rather than a short-term campaign, said Fang Ning, head of the political science research institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences."If it was a short-term operation, then work styles would never be improved," Fang said.
To increase pressure on officials, the CCDI, China's top anti-graft agency, updated its website in September to add features for tip-offs about official corruption, as well as sections naming and shaming officials for specified misconduct. Many lower-level anti-graft agencies have followed suit.
Authorities in some regions have even exposed what used to be seen as minor misconduct in a bid to build an austere and diligent government.
The anti-graft authorities in Xishuangbanna, a prefecture in southwestern province of Yunnan, have publicly exposed 17 officials for breaching work disciplines, including eating breakfasts, playing video games, watching films, buying goods and chatting online during office hours.
In a similar move, the provincial anti-corruption body in Yunnan publicized details of five cases in which work style guidelines had been been contravened, dismissing or disciplining the officials involved.
"In the past, these cases would not have been regarded as very serious, but the exposure of their details online came as authorities seek to improve work styles to build a diligent government," said Yang Daqing, deputy director of the publicity and education department with the Yunnan provincial discipline inspection commission.
The high-profile anti-graft drive is attracting the attention of more and more citizens who are also helping push forward the campaign with tip-offs.
It has rekindled interest in public supervision, with more channels now available for exposure of corruption and improper work styles, Yang said.
Ma Huaide, vice president of China University of Political Science and Law, said beefed-up public supervision should be allowed to help push forward the anti-graft efforts as corruption is widely seen as a major threat to the Party's survival.
"If government workers are made to better serve the people, they would then garner more public support," Ma added.