China officials holding secret sauna parties: state media

Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly Congress

Delegates leave following the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 8 November 2012. File photo/AFP/Getty Images/Ed Jones


BEIJING, China, 2 May 2013

Chinese officials have been holding secret sauna parties and hiding their alcohol in plastic water bottles as they seek to get around a crackdown on extravagance, state media reported Wednesday.

“Constant reports of saunas held at farm houses” were evidence of a growing culture of “low key extravagance” that was damaging the new president’s anti-corruption campaign, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party said.

Officials have been filling mineral water bottles with expensive liquor and storing luxury cigarettes in boxes belonging to cheaper brands, the report said.

China’s new leaders have stressed austerity as they try to rein in extravagant feasts and luxury spending, with newly-installed President Xi Jinping vowing to crack down on corruption among high and low ranking officials.

Xi has said that corruption could lead to the Communist party’s downfall, and it often incites public anger, with 50 percent of Chinese ranking official graft “a very big problem”, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The recent campaign has driven some officials away from expensive hotel restaurants, but has led others to hold covert feasts in private clubs or even government canteens, the People’s Daily said on its front page.

China has no laws requiring officials to publicly disclose their assets, creating greater opportunities for graft.

Critics have argued that party controls over China’s media and courts limit the effectiveness of anti-corruption campaigns, which have often been announced by Chinese leaders in recent decades.

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