SHANGHAI -- Authorities in Nanjing, China, have released a series of cartoons designed to show public officials how to avoid being ensnared in the nation’s increasingly wide-ranging crackdown on government corruption and excess.
The five, two-minute animated films cover topics such as the scale of weddings, funerals and birthday parties. They also advise officials on how to deal with gifts at parties and functions, and avoid leisure activities while on government business trips, state media reported.
Producers of the cartoons said they were made in response to increasing uncertainty among officials as to what constitutes acceptable behavior in the current climate, the China News Service (CNS) reported.
A disciplinary official from Nanjing’s Jianye district said the idea came about after the deputy head of a local government department requested advice on “how to organize my daughter’s wedding without breaking disciplinary rules.”
The deputy head was reportedly so worried about violating rules that he had been planning to cancel his daughter's wedding reception, but was facing opposition from the family of the groom. The disciplinary office's advice, featured in one of the cartoons, was to “consider the local level of economic development and local customs, and ensure that you do not exceed the normal scale or degree of consumption,” when organizing a ceremony or celebration.
In late 2012, shortly after President Xi Jinping became head of the Communist Party, China’s leadership introduced an eight-point disciplinary code for officials, promoting frugality and calling for an end to waste and extravagance. The code, which leaders said was aimed at promoting "righteous life- and work-styles,” instructed officials to ensure that events involving their family members were low-profile, and prohibited them from taking gifts from nonrelatives. Chinese authorities announced recently that more than 102,000 people had been punished nationwide under the austerity drive since late 2012.
Difficult To Comply
These days, relatively few officials dare to intentionally flaunt the rules, staff at the Jianye district's Commision for Discipline Inspection (CDI) told CNS. But they said that a number had violated the regulations through carelessness, and many were now asking the CDI for advice. Deputy Director Li Xiangsen said the commission would make further information films for officials in the future, and would promote them via social media -- though so far only still images appear to be online.
A city-level discipline official added that by tackling low-level disciplinary infringements, authorities hoped to prevent larger-scale corruption.
Nanjing is no stranger to corruption: Last month the city’s former Mayor Ji Jianye was sentenced to 15 years in prison for taking bribes totaling 11.3 million yuan (around $1.8 million), mainly from real estate developers, in connection with development projects in that city and others where he had previously worked. Meanwhile, Yang Weize, Nanjing's former Communist Party secretary, was placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption in January.
In March, city officials denied Chinese media reports that Wang Debao, deputy secretary of Jianye district’s Communist Party, had been detained at his daughter’s wedding. The city government acknowledged, however, that Wang was under investigation, but said his detention happened at another time and place.
Latest Alleged Violators
Earlier this week the national CDI named the latest batch of officials who it said had allegedly broken the eight-point guidelines. Infringements included using official cars for personal activities, holding “lavish funerals,” and paying for banquets using public funds. One of the most prominent cases was that of Dong Jun, mayor of Xian in central China, who was given a disciplinary warning for frequenting a private club. State media said the CDI has named more than 2,000 officials implicated in such cases over the past year.
The disciplinary watchdog also warned officials against untoward behavior during public holidays, such as this weekend’s May Day holiday, and next month’s Dragon Boat Festival. State media said there would normally be an increase in unlawful gift-giving, banquets and ceremonies at such times.
China’s leaders have described the ongoing crackdown as fundamental to the Communist Party’s ability to retain its hold on power. The campaigns appear to have had some effect on the behavior of officials: Spending on luxury items -- from expensive watches to alcohol, jade, Tibetan mastiff dogs and even China’s finest green tea, Longjing -- is reported to be down.
State media say that nearly 1,900 cases involving bribery were prosecuted in the first quarter of this year, up 6.1 percent from the same period last year.
Yet while the campaign is winning authorities support from some portions of the public, others have asserted that the selection of targets, particularly at the senior level, is often motivated by political rivalries and score-settling.
Some of the revelations have simply shocked members of the public struggling to make ends meet: One senior official was revealed to have more than $33 million in cash in his home when he was arrested, while a senior poverty alleviation official was given a suspended death sentence this week for taking 60 million yuan ($9.7 million) in bribes.
It was recently announced that a hospital president in the southwestern city of Kunming had allegedly taken more than $5 million in bribes and accumulated 100 properties worth a total of $13 million in 10 years in the post. Famous Chinese TV host Bai Yansong said on social media this week that if the hospital boss had lived in Beijing, where property prices are higher, he would have deserved the death penalty six times for his crimes.