by Xinhua writer Cheng Lu
SHENZHEN, June 26 (Xinhua) -- "Training centers" for government officials or state-owned enterprise (SOE) employees are the latest targets of China's anti-corruption drive.
From banquets in luxury hotels to private clubs hidden in public parks, China's crackdown on corruption is spreading into more obscure corners as the campaign widens.
In self-criticism sessions on Tuesday, Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, highlighted the problem of "training centers".
These centers, often hidden away in tourist cities, suck up public resources and offer services exclusively to government employees. Some are also open to ordinary tourists, but at very high prices.
Xu Peng from Shenzhen was angered when he and his family were rejected by the Meisha Hotel in the city's popular beach area last weekend. The "hotel" is actually a training center for the Shenzhen branch of China Construction Bank. A receptionist said it is not open to public, and only China Construction Bank employees can check in. Their families are also welcome.
"A standard room costs 280 yuan (about 45 U.S. dollars) a night, while a king size room is 380 yuan, far below the price local hotels charge tourists. The deluxe suite is only available to high-ranking officials," the receptionist added.
A Shenzhen government official who declined to be named said that although officials and SOE employees cannot stay in the training centers for free, they get big discounts.
"The beautiful beach is already a special privilege for the few. It is not fair," Xu complained.
Close to Hong Kong, Shenzhen has many restaurants, hotels and training centers, along with beautiful sunshine and beaches, but more than 80 percent of the city's 56 beaches are occupied by unlicensed operators including government departments. Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court, local tax authorities, urban planning and land resources commissions, the Industrial Commercial Bank of China, and so on have built more than 20 training centers.
In early June, a training center belonging to the Shenzhen branch of the state taxation administration, was exposed on the Internet. Jinshuiwan Resort, incredibly similar to a four-star hotel and most unlike a collection of classroom and study facilities, was built in 2001. It covers an area of 56,000 square meters, boasts 16 luxury villas and one multiple-use building; a kind of clubhouse. Very little training appears to go on there. Twelve out of 13 classrooms were vacant in mid-June.
It is open to the public but at unfeasibly high costs. Ordinary tourists have to pay 660 yuan to 12,800 yuan per night.
People are questioning how rare public resources like beaches can become prerogative of the few.
It is not just about Shenzhen: training centers paid for by government agencies, public institutions and SOEs are very common in other desirable destinations, including Qingdao, Hangzhou and Sanya.
They were originally built in the 70s and 80s to make up for the lack of social resources in China, but with a new-found awareness of civil rights, people now strongly resent these centers, and who can blame them?
People's Daily, the CPC flagship newspaper, described on Wednesday how the training centers are more like spas, saunas or bowling alleys with the expenditure accounted for as training or meetings: a simple waste of public money. Entertainment is the main purpose; entertainment and power-for-money deals.
"The operation of training centers is very complicated. Owned by government departments or SOEs, they provide services for officials and employees, but at the same time, some are open to the public," said Song Ding of the China Development Institute.
The establishments are not responsible for their own profits and losses. Those which make a profit become private coffers for government agencies, while those suffering losses are subsidized.
Since Xi Jinping took the helm of the CPC in 2012, the Party has been uprooting bureaucracy and extravagance wherever they are found and the austerity drive has not waned over the past year, indeed it seems to be gathering pace and ferocity.
(Peng Yong, Zhou Qiang, Feng Lu and Zhao Ruixi from Guangdong contribute to the reporting)