Fourteen Chinese police officers have been suspended following claims of an assault against three undercover journalists who exposed a celebration that involved feasting on an endangered species using government funds. The officials allegedly consumed the “critically endangered” salamander, which is believed to have anti-ageing properties, and later attacked the journalists for their role in making the incident public.

The officials reportedly assaulted the three journalists from the Guangzhou-based Nandu Daily and seized their cameras on Wednesday night at a dinner party in a restaurant in Shenzhen's Luohu district in southern China, The Global Times reported. Nandu Daily reportedly said that, of the 28 people who attended the dinner party, many were from the local public security department. Shenzhen's police are now investigating the case.

"In my territory, it is my treat. I chose this because it is unique while it is under my control … And it is safe here," an official at the event said, according to The Global Times, which cited the Nandu Daily report. The meal reportedly cost 6,352 yuan ($1,020), excluding the wine, and the officials who attended the event also reportedly received a bag of fish from the Donghu reservoir, Shenzhen's main drinking water resource where fishing is banned. One of the members dining there reportedly said that the salamander was bred in captivity.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List, the salamander population has “declined catastrophically over the last 30 years," mainly due to "commercial over-exploitation for human consumption,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

The latest incident comes as Chinese officials are facing criticism for dining at a luxurious restaurant in Shanghai while a stampede took place during New Year's Eve celebrations, killing 36 people. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign in the country, has also launched an austerity drive for the ruling classes, including a campaign for simple meals with the catchphrase, “four dishes and one soup,” AFP reported.