China / Government

Festive season can breed corruption

By Su Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-31 07:43

For government officials, festivals are more important than ever because they are occasions to attest to their political loyalty and prove their work ethic. However, if they fail to behave according to the rules of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, they risk their career.

To prevent potential corruption during the coming New Year's Day and Spring Festival, China has tightened its regulation on government staff by restating the "eight-point rules" - first issued in December 2012 to ban them from misusing public funds in eight areas - and adding more channels for citizens to report breaches.

The coming festival holidays, Jan 1-3 and Feb 18-24, are times when government officials and ordinary people engage in holiday social activities. The celebrations easily breed corruption in the form of taking bribes as holiday gifts, hosting lavish banquets to celebrate New Year and even gambling as a "traditional" entertainment during the holiday.

To help the public report government officials' improper behavior, the CCDI disclosed its hotline, website and mailbox location on Dec 26, and also set up a special column on its official website to expose corruption cases around the country.

With the emergence of electronic payments, China has also urged officials to decline bribes through "e-hongbao", or "e-red packet", where people can accept money from WeChat, a Chinese social app, and deposit it into their bank accounts.

Many companies that used to provide services for governments during the holidays have seen a drop in orders since 2013 and have shifted their market from government departments and State-owned enterprises to individual customers.

Food and beverage executives from luxury hotel chains in Xi'an, Guilin and Changchun reported to China Daily that their main clients for the coming festival season are no longer officials and government organizations but ordinary citizens and their families.

"We try to make up in other ways, including diversifying our customers," said a hotel manager in Changchun who declined to be identified. "For instance, we provide more family programs, including kids' activities," he said, adding that the hotel also takes advantage of the city's tourism status to attract customers.

Rao Xue, from Nanjing Yunjin Research Institute, said its major clients were government organizations at the beginning. Yunjin, also known as Nanjing brocade, is a popular silk fabric for gifts and dresses for formal occasions.

"Since the anti-corruption drive began, we have seen a drop in orders from government organizations, so we have adjusted our products to meet the demand from the public," said Rao. "We have made more innovative products that can be used in daily life and cost less, such as yunjin purses."

After two years of the anti-corruption fight, the Supreme People's Court said the problem persists and fighting it will be a long-term, arduous task.

The court exposed seven cases of violating the eight-point rules on Monday and said it will enhance its inspection of officials' behavior during the coming festivals.

Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said corruption during the two festivals is universal and is hard to combat.

"Even ordinary people will give money or gifts to their relatives and friends, not to mention government officials. It is part of the festival in China," said Zhu. "And it is very hard to tell individual behavior from corrupt behavior during the festival.

"The newly added channels for reporting by the public are a good way to help local discipline inspection bureaus do their work."

Zhu also suggested implementing high-tech ways to monitor other possible avenues for bribes.

"For example, the discipline inspection bureau can work with banks to monitor money transfers involving large sums," he said. "It is OK if you take hundreds of e-hongbao from WeChat. But if you cash in thousands of yuan from WeChat, then it should send an alert to local discipline inspection bureaus."

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