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Anti-graft move takes mooncake

Wu Yixue
Updated: Aug 16,2014 3:54 PM     China Daily

Li Min/China Daily

Crackdown on the use of public money on gifts to seek favors from officials will strengthen Party and government image.

As Mid-Autumn Festival nears, the top discipline body of the Communist Party of China has intensified its crackdown on malpractices such as the use of public money to buy mooncakes and gift cards as part of its ongoing campaign against extravagance and corruption.

The CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection opened a “special tip-off window”on its website on Sunday inviting people to report lavish spending by officials and using public money to buy gifts during Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 8 this year. Officials violating the strict code will be named and shamed in a weekly report on the website.

The move is aimed at better implementing the eight-point rules, introduced by China’s new leadership at the end of 2012 to end the lavish lifestyle and excessive formalities indulged in by Party members, and preventing officials from reverting to their dishonest workstyle, the website says. On the very day that the “special tip-off window” opened, the CCDI said that in the previous week 154 violations of the eight-point rules by officials had been reported. By the end of June, 61,703 officials had been punished for breaching the rules.

People have applauded the intensified crackdown on extravagance, and see the move as the right step toward building an austere Party and government.

What the top authorities are opposed to is not normal public consumption of mooncakes, a kind of round pastry with sweet or other fillings savored by people during Mid-Autumn Festival, but the squandering of taxpayers’ money by civil servants.

It’s a tradition for Chinese people to buy mooncakes during the festival not only for their families, but also to give them as gifts to relatives or friends as a show of goodwill and gratitude. However, some people have used this tradition as an opportunity to use public money to bribe officials to seek favors, such as promotion. This perhaps best explains why moon cake packaging became increasingly fancy and expensive with each passing year, with mooncakes made of gold being the height of extravagance.

According to media reports, the production and marketing of “high-grade” mooncakes or the ones with luxury packaging declined by 50 percent during the last Mid-Autumn Festival, because of the crackdown by the CCDI. And some people who had built their personal wealth by making and supplying such products for years were reported to have shifted to other businesses.

But because of the lack of an effective monitoring channel, the practice of using public money for mutual gift giving among government departments and officials has not been completely eradicated.

Therefore, the opening of an all-weather “special tip-off window”by the top anti-corruption body on its website will help plug the loopholes in the supervision system. The powerful monitoring network, thanks to the involvement of the public, is a message to crooked officials that their actions will be exposed and they cannot escape punishment.

Eating, drinking or giving gifts using public money were rampant in the bureaucracy and tarnished the image of the Party and government. Moreover, such practices were threatening to alienate the Party and government from the ordinary people. The misuse of public money by officials for personal gains also strengthened people’s doubts over whether the Party and government can really exercise self-discipline and self-restraint as they had vowed to.

But a series of strict measures taken by the Party in the past years to improve its working style and fight corruption, extravagance and other malpractices have refurbished its image in people’s minds and made them more confident that the Party indeed has the will and capability to clean itself and the government.

The intensified crackdown on officials using public money to gift expensive and luxuriously packaged mooncakes to seek favors is not an example of the CPC making a fuss over a trivial matter. Instead, it is a demonstration of the Party’s zero tolerance toward any waste of taxpayers’ money no matter how small that waste is.

Party and government officials are free to consume mooncakes, even expensive ones, during Mid-Autumn Fest, but they should pay for the delicacies from their own pocket.

The author is a senior writer of China Daily.