China / Society

Chinese netizens fight for the right to party

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-08-08 21:33

CHENGDU - A county in Southwest China's Sichuan province has banned residents from holding banquets, causing uproar online.

According to an online posting in late July by the government of Tongjiang County, residents may only hold banquets on three occasions: weddings, funerals, and birthdays for those aged over 70. And birthday banquets should only be held once every 10 years.

The new rules require people who want to hold wedding and birthday banquets to apply 15 days in advance and provide marriage certificates or proof of age to local authorities. Those who organize banquets without approval will face heavy penalties.

A county official told Xinhua the intention is to stop extravagance by civil servants and the public, and to encourage them to be more frugal.


Tongjiang is an impoverished county, but it is claimed that people there spend lots of money on banquets they cannot afford. Taking Kongshan Township as an example, people there have an average annual income of 4,800 yuan ($774 dollars), but each household spends around 20,000 yuan on gifts for various banquets, said an official in the local civil affairs department. In China, red envelopes stuffed with money are de rigueur at these kinds of events.

"Birthdays, marriages, seniors' deaths, college admission, moving house... people in the county hold banquets for anything and everything," said resident Zhao Jingsheng. "You will suffer heavy losses if you send gifts, usually money, to others but don't hold such banquets yourself."

Last year, Kongshan piloted a program to allow villages to restrict banquets. Local people supported the measure and now the county wants to extend it to all towns.

The regulation has aroused a heated debate both online and offline. Supporters claim that it is a good way to limit wasteful behavior, especially among officials.

"Zhaozi" who comes from Sichuan Province complained online that banquets have imposed an especially heavy financial burden on young people. Even critics admit that such regulations should apply to civil servants as a way of fighting corruption, but not to ordinary residents. They claim that authorities are overstretching their powers and curtailing the freedom of citizens.

"Does this mean those who fail to survive for 70 years can't hold a birthday party in their entire life?" asks "Tangque" on his Weibo account.

Zhou Wei, law professor at Sichuan University, says that although extravagant banquets have distorted Chinese traditions and culture, the government should educate people to change their ways. It has no right to impose mandatory orders that interfere in people's lives.


This is not the first controversial regulation by local governments in China.

Last October, a bizarre regulation, issued by a village in Central China's Hubei province, told villagers not to buy cigarettes for more 2 yuan per packet nor alcohol for more than 20 yuan per bottle.

In March, 2014, Zhuzhou City in Hunan Province set the limit for the number of flies buzzing around any garbage transfer station at three.

Despite the good intentions, such eccentric rules are often counterproductive.

Hu Guangwei, researcher with Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, suggests that the Tongjiang government conduct opinion polls and that officials there should set good examples to ordinary residents.

"A piece of paper can't change people's minds and bad behavior. They need time and better guidance," he said.

The government of Tongjiang County has asked the departments concerned to adjust the wording of the notification.

Hot Topics