China targets lavish 'revolutionary' tourism funded by taxpayer

Ruling party's disciplinary arm brings more than 16,000 rule-breaking officials to book.
By Qian Lang for RFA Mandarin
2024.07.05
China targets lavish 'revolutionary' tourism funded by taxpayer A group of local retirees gather to sing Red Army revolutionary songs, April 12, 2021, in the city of Zunyi in Southwestern China's Guizhou. The group, whose members' ages range from their late 50s to over 80, gather regularly to sing to tourists visiting the nearby Zunyi Memorial Museum.
Emily Wang/AP

China has stepped up punishments for officials who take gifts or go on lavish tours of Communist Party revolutionary sites in the name of "patriotic education," according to the latest figures from the party's disciplinary arm.

The party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection investigated more than 17,000 cases in May where officials had broken rules brought in by party leader Xi Jinping to tackle extravagance and overspending, it said in a report published June 27.

May's figures were nearly double the number of cases pursued in April, it said, adding that more than 16,000 officials had been "punished," without giving details.

The majority of cases were at the lowest levels of government, and involved "the illegal giving and receiving of gifts, illegal wining and dining, and illegal cash handouts in the form of subsidies or welfare," the commission said.

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Workers walk past an exhibit of the modern Chinese Military, Oct. 25, 2022, at the newly reopened Military Museum in Beijing. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

It said "publicly-funded tourism" is also a big problem, referring to a practice that sends officials and state employees on fully-paid junkets to other parts of China, often in the name of "patriotic" and "revolutionary" education.

A political commentator from the central province of Hubei who gave only the surname Ma for fear of reprisals said patriotic education tours are big business in today's China, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

"They call themselves red, or revolutionary, education bases, but they even include sites connected to the [former ruling] Kuomintang government's war of resistance against Japan [during World War II], which have nothing to do with the Communist Party revolution," Ma said.

"They even include the Opium War Museum, which has nothing to do with the Communist Party or even the Kuomintang government," he said. "There are many other similar cases."

Such "educational" tours are often also run by local governments as a way to secure more public funding, he said.

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Civil war veterans of China's Communist Party walk past statues of the late Communist leaders Mao Zedong (L), Liu Shaoqi (C) and Ren Bishi as they visit a civil war museum, Jan. 15, 2003, in Tianjin, China. (AP)

"Our party has always attached great importance to rectifying the problem of public-funded tourism," the Commission said in its June 27 report.

"It has issued notices many times insisting that people just stop going on vacation under the aegis of visiting, studying, holding meetings or patriotic education," it said.

Eight principles

Meanwhile, state news agency Xinhua's journal Banyuetan pointed to an unnamed county in southwestern China that had held more than 300 official receptions in 2023 costing around 300,000 yuan (US$41,300), while another county had splurged more than 820,000 yuan (US$112,000) on 270 official events.

Xi's anti-extravagance rules list eight moral and ethical principles that party members are expected to live by.

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A wax figure of former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong is seen inside a "cave" dwelling at a tourism site during a government-organized tour marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, May 29, 2021, in Yanan, Shaanxi province, China. (Ryan Woo/Reuters)

They are aimed at preventing lavish wining and dining, as well as "improper sexual relations" with anyone, as well as the formation of party cliques or factions that go against the leadership's political line, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Golf is also a banned pastime -- when using taxpayers' money, at least.

Since taking power in 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping has launched an ongoing anti-corruption campaign targeting high-ranking "tigers" along with low-ranking "flies."

But political analysts say the anti-corruption campaign is highly selective, with members of factions other than Xi's most likely to be targeted.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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