by Xinhua Writers Ji Shaoting and Cheng Yunjie
BEIJING, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- A Xinhua investigation has exposed the deep-rooted nature of corruption among China's officialdom, outing double-dealing officials who chant frugality slogans but hold secretive extravagant banquets.
At the Tianzhong Hotel in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, late on Saturday, a Xinhua reporter was body searched and illegally detained during an announced visit to take photos of a local police new year party.
Although the reporter produced his press card, all pictures from their cellphone camera were deleted by people at the banquet.
When the reporter's colleagues came to his rescue and asked the hotel's canteen management to provide information on their client from its computer system, some of the diners from the banquet forcibly cut the supply of power to the computer.
On hearing the news, the Zhengzhou Public Security Bureau organized a special investigation team, and on Tuesday imposed administrative penalties on the policemen involved, ordered them to pay for the meal at their own expense and apologized to the detained Xinhua employee.
After the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee promulgated a package of rules requiring government officials to change their work style and ditch extravagance for frugality in late December, more than 20 provinces have issued detailed regulations to build cleaner governments.
Behind the bandwagon, however, hides a cohort of pussyfooters who rack their brains to keep their corrupt working practices and lifestyles while maintaining good repute, as Xinhua reporters have confirmed.
An employee with the South Asia Wyndham Hotel in Kunming, capital of southwestern China's Yunnan Province, told this news agency on condition of anonymity that all its large banquet halls had been booked by big companies and a few government departments for the Spring Festival period.
"The names of the governmental departments are our commercial secrets," added the employee.
Elsewhere, the extravagance of official banquets has become all the better disguised.
"The harsh orders have actually seen the banquets split into smaller get-togethers and made them harder to be tracked, but with no fewer expenses," an official in east China's Anhui Province told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Although colored flags, welcoming banners and flower baskets have been removed from official banquets, the "last dish," a gift-giving session which normally serves a carton of high-end cigarettes to all diners, has remained, said the official.
Under the strict supervision, receptions have been transferred to hidden places with smaller amounts of people, according to the source.
They added that the colloquial saying "to eat quietly, to take gently and to play secretly" had entered common use in local officialdom.
In one cunning countermeasure against the central authority's "frugality order," according to an executive of a state-owned enterprise, luxury banquets have been moved out of starred hotels and into the canteens of government departments.
"It used to be an unspoken rule to invite officials to starred hotels, while now starred-hotel cooks are invited to canteens," said the executive.
Top chefs usually bring their high-end tableware to well-decorated canteens, which are as good as in starred hotels, they added.
In response to such double dealing, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, reiterated the significance of improving work style among Party members on Tuesday during a CPC disciplinary watchdog meeting.
"Those undesirable practices, if unaddressed, will evolve to be an invisible wall that separates the Party from the people, thus leaving the Party without root, lifeblood and power," Xi said.