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Booze banned at official banquets

Anhui province has banned alcoholic beverages at official banquets, except those held to attract investment or involving foreign affairs.

The new rule, released on Thursday, is considered the toughest across the country and was made in response to criticism from the country's top anti-graft body.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection sent a team of inspectors to the province in February, following a prior visit in 2013.

After the inspection, the anti-graft watchdog said publicly that excessive drinking at official banquets was popular among the province's officials and "should be curbed immediately and effectively".

"Those who violate the rule will be severely punished," according to a notice from the party committee of Yijiang district in Wuhu city on Friday.

"Many Chinese believe a banquet without alcohol is no banquet at all," said Yang Hongwen, chief engineer and certified wine taster at Anhui Golden Seed Winery, a liquor manufacturer based in Fuyang.

Zhang Zheng, a public servant from the city of Ma'anshan, said some officials have even developed a philosophy of drinking.

"Many Chinese believe they can judge a person's quality through observing the attitude and style of one's drinking, so drinking at banquets is often considered effective to build trust between people and get more knowledge of each other," said Zhang.

"As far as I know, some officials actually hate the so-called drinking culture but have to adapt to the occasion," added Zhang, who thinks the rule will also help such officials avoid drinking.

Xinhua News Agency said recently that drinking at banquets may easily breed corruption.

"It happens often that some officials like to discuss work issues when drinking at banquets instead of in the office," China Discipline Inspection Daily, the mouthpiece of the top anti-graft body, said two days before the Anhui conference.

A report by Beijing Times said, "Tough as the new rule is, it still has loopholes."

The newspaper wondered whether more official banquets would be held in the name of attracting investment, as drinking alcohol on such occasions is excluded from the ban.

Finance Ministry tightens screws on office expenses

Central governmental departments should not pay more than 7,000 yuan ($1,064) each for computers, and should use them for at least six years, according to a new standard on office supplies released on Monday.

The latest requirement, issued by the Ministry of Finance, is aimed at improving asset management of government departments, including the State Council, ministries and the Supreme People's Court, and reducing unnecessary costs of office supplies.

The requirement strictly controls the quantity of office supplies, such as furniture, computers and desks, the ministry said, adding that each department can only update supplies if they are broken.

For example, the cost of desks used for officials below division level cannot cost more than 3,000 yuan and chairs should be kept to less than 800 yuan, it said.

Computers, laptops and printers for officials at this level must be used at least six years, it said.

Every department is asked to purchase and use office supplies that are safe, low-cost, stable and convenient to repair, and luxurious ones must be banned, it said.

The move regulates asset management, it said, and all the expenses must be recorded in the department's financial budgets, echoing the frugality put forward by the central leadership.

The new requirement will take effect on July 1.