Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lavish wedding banquet lands cop in hot soup

A senior police officer in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, has come under fire for hosting a lavish wedding reception for his daughter at a five-star hotel, with netizens and local media wondering how a public servant can acquire so much money.

There were more than 110 tables full of wedding guests at the party, which was held in a 1,000-sq-m banquet hall in the Kempinski Hotel on Sunday.

The menu included shark fin, grouper and abalone.

"I expected the media will report the way I celebrated my daughter's wedding. But I could not have cancelled the banquet, in which most of the guests were friends. Both the families have lived in Shenzhen for decades," Southern Metropolis Daily quoted the deputy director of Shenzhen public security bureau's airport branch, surnamed Liu, as saying.

Liu said "80 percent of the guests were merely friends".

Liu refused to reveal exactly how much the banquet cost him or how much money he received in hongbao (red envelopes).

It is still not clear if Liu's banquet went against local regulations.

The Shenzhen public security bureau could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"Officials like Liu know the purpose of such a party. They take the opportunity of a wedding or a funeral to collect hongbao, which has become a nationwide trend," Wang Yukai, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, told China Daily.

"If they were not powerful officials, there wouldn't be so many people present at their dinner parties," he said.

The lavish banquet was held just five days after a top police officer in Guangdong province was suspended in the wake of allegations of receiving money from guests he invited to celebrate the purchase of his new villa.

Chen Xizhao, deputy-director of the public security bureau of Lianjiang county, organized a banquet for more than 1,000 people, including colleagues and owners of entertainment venues.

Chen allegedly arranged empty red envelopes for invitees to leave money, and treated the guests to Martell Cordon Bleu cognac wine, which costs 3,000 yuan (US$483) a bottle.

Last Thursday, the county's disciplinary supervision authority released a notice that prohibits local Party members and government officials from collecting hongbao even when they are hosts at weddings or funerals.

Officials will be dismissed immediately if they are found to have set more than 10 tables for guests at any party, Guangzhou Daily reported last Friday.

The education authority of Shaanxi province dismissed Wu Fengzhou, a high-profile schoolmaster of the Guanjia town center school in Ankang city, local Huashang Daily reported yesterday.

Most teachers of 13 middle and primary schools in town were at the wedding banquet of Wu's son. Therefore, classes for some 2,805 students had to be suspended on Dec 28.

"With no specific punitive measures, most crackdowns on such practices are of little consequence," professor Wang said.

"If the measures adopted by Lianjiang county turn out to be effective, people will increase their confidence in government officials. The measures may also be included in a national regulation."