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Reaction mixed to county's ban on officials playing mahjong

By Jia Tingting and Yang Jun ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2014-05-08

Mahjong, one of the most popular leisure games in China, has stolen the spotlight recently after one county issued a strict ban that forbids government officials from playing the game anytime, anywhere, whether on the job or off.

Leishan county, a popular tourist attraction in Southwest China's Guizhou province, issued the ban in March. The public's response has been mixed.

The local commission for discipline inspection established an informant's hotline and instituted random inspections each week to check on government officials on the job and off.

Within one month, mahjong parlors, which used to be ubiquitous in the county, have disappeared.

"We hope the ban shall make local cadres a good example for the public to follow," said Li Jun, director of the Leishan commission for discipline inspection.

"With the clickety-clack sound of mahjong tiles trailing off, the region will leave a better impression on tourists," Li said.

Xu Kun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences based in Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou province, said that "the rule makers should take leading cadres' private time into consideration".

A local cadre named Wei Tongxian looked at the bright side. While the rule against mahjong is strict, he said, it gives him a good excuse to refuse when asked to play.

"I can spend more time with my family, and I would never stay up late playing mahjong," he said.

Guizhou ranked No 1 for the number of misconduct cases involving officials playing mahjong at work, followed by Hubei and Sichuan provinces, according to statistics from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Misconduct reports of officials playing mahjong at work from the three provinces accounted for 67.7 percent of the nation's total.

In 2013, 170 officials and Party members in Guiyang were punished because of misconduct, and 72 were found to be playing mahjong at work or in public places, according to Hu Bin, a member of the Guiyang city discipline inspection commission's standing committee.

Playing mahjong was once an important daily routine in locals' lives, said a local official who asked to remain anonymous.

"Any restaurant, teahouse or hotel without a mahjong table had no chance to survive," said the official. "It's normal for people to have several rounds of mahjong before and after lunch."

In May 2013, Guizhou issued a "no mahjong" policy forbidding government officials from playing mahjong at work, which it said echoed the "eight rules" issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China at the end of 2012 to curb extravagance.

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