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Gov't ban on festival gifts in spotlight
Updated: 2005-02-07 20:43

The State Development and Reform Commission, nicknamed the country's mini-Cabinet, continued its fight against corruption by banning visitors with Spring Festival gifts from entering the office building.

The measure, aimed at preventing its staff from taking "gifts" during the Spring Festival, is drawing national attention -- and sarcastic remarks.

"Anyone with a suitcase or a bag of unusual size shall be checked by guards at the gate of the office compound," an entrance guard said, quoting a decree from the Commission's General Office issued three weeks ago. "An electronic system has also been installed across the compound to monitor violators."

Some visitors have tried to leave their gifts with the guard for staff to pick up later. But that also is against the new rules, said the guard.

Sociology Professor Xia Xueluan with Peking University praised the move as "an example for other government bodies" in fighting corruption and building a clean government.

One day after the news story on the gift ban was published more than 300 web surfers have posted comments on forums of Xinhuanet.com and People.com.cn, run by Xinhua and the People's Daily.

Many just don't agree the measure will have any actual effect.

"What if the visitor prepares a large check, or simply goes to the official's home with his 'gifts?'" said a web surfer by the name of "Heart of Justice."

A web surfer named Zhang Hongqing wrote for the People's Daily, saying that it is more important for the Party and government to install a comprehensive legal framework to prevent and punish official corruption.

"A rigorous anti-graft mechanism can serve as a ubiquitous 'gift ban' for officials, which will help them practice self-discipline even without entrance guard checks," he said.

It has been a tradition for Chinese people to give presents or money to family members and close friends during Spring Festival.

But such gifts turn into bribes if they are handed to government departments or civil servants, Xia said.

Due to frequent sightings of visitors with gifts entering government office buildings in recent years, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council have repeatedly banned the practice.

According to media reports, of all the officials convicted of corruption, 31 percent had taken bribes during the annual Spring Festival period.

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