Cleansing luxury havens

Updated: 2014-10-29 07:20

(China Daily)

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Bad news for spendthrift officials: Some of their newfound safe havens for extravagant entertainment will soon be unsafe.

Starting Saturday, private clubs in such public venues as parks and historical buildings will be the new forbidden zones for them. Yes, visits to such venues against Beijing's stern warning have cost Wan Qingliang, former Party chief of Guangzhou, his political career.

Despite the crackdown on corruption, greedy public servants have found new ways to squander public resources at their disposal. Even after Wan's fall, which the Party discipline watchdog might have expected to deter his like-minded peers from indulging in luxury, private clubs keep receiving guests from public offices, only that the costly dining and wining have now switched to stealth mode. High-end restaurants and entertainment venues hidden in parks and facilities of historical importance are the new frontier for these special consumers.

Earlier, they could enjoy the fanciest and most expensive foods and services almost wherever and whenever they wished, without worrying about sky-high prices. That the general offices of the Party's Central Committee and State Council have had to name names of unacceptable venues for public servants to eat and entertain or be entertained is surely unusual.

The high-profile anti-extravagance campaign the top leadership launched almost two years ago has won hearts, and achieved results initially.

But with officials finding new ways to go around the rules, the national discipline watchdog has found itself playing an endless game of hide-and-seek with greedy, gluttonous officials. Each time it issued a new ban, officials immediately worked out a counter-move, forgetting that they have joined public service to serve the people.

Some officials would seldom hesitate to curry favor with superiors in order to get promoted and even resort to under-the-table means. And the best part, for them of course, is that there was little oversight on the way public money was spent. The prevailing complaint that harsh punishments for violators have dampened public servants' enthusiasm for routine work reflects the existence of deeply entrenched vested interests.

But this time, the Party leadership seems determined not to give in to corrupt and self-gratifying officials, because the privileges they claim are not only unfair and illicit, but also contradict their identity as public servants and undermine the Party's own governance.

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