China’s public servants are in no mood to be festive this lunar new year. They dare not take bribes, but that is just the half of it.
Plenty of the more innocent perks of the season have also been quashed: no more taxpayer-funded office feasts or galas; no more -lavish new year raffles.
Even the most insignificant treats – from fruit baskets to sunflower seeds, calendars to cooking oil – have been curbed in the name of the new leaner, cleaner, more abstemious China.
Lunar new year has been the high point of work life in China for decades. But last year many government departments and state-owned enterprises cancelled year-end office parties after a flurry of edicts from Beijing. This year, the January 31 celebrations are taking frugality further.
“We already moved our nianhui (new year office party) from a five-star hotel ballroom to our canteen, where the food is terrible. But what I hate the most is, they cancelled the prize-giving,” says a disgruntled employee of state-owned China Mobile in Guangzhou, who would not give their name. “They kept the traditional lottery as a kind of game, but whoever wins it gets no gift!”
Some also complain of the cancellation of traditional year-end subsidies, sometimes in the form of grocery gift cards used to defray the expenses of celebrating the spring festival at home.
“I understand that the higher levels of government worry that, once they loosen their grip, people under them will find a loophole. But to cancel such nianhui hurts department cohesiveness,” says a junior civil servant in Shanghai.
But little things irk: “We planned to have a tea party in our own canteen with sunflower seeds, candies, singing and games, but our superiors wouldn’t approve it,” says one staff member at a state oil company.
An employee in a state-owned financial services company says a ban on the printing of calendars bothers him most. Another told the Beijing News his state-owned company replaced new year gifts such as iPads with toothpaste.
But some public servants say there is a silver lining.
The employee whose planned canteen party was not authorised says: “I was half wishing that they would not approve it, because it’s not really fun. I actually felt relieved.” Some say they are also relieved to avoid the heavy drinking at government banquets.
The ministries of public security, civil affairs and culture must live without their own new year galas screened on China Central Television this year, according to Xinhua. Even spending public funds on firework displays, the most traditional new year activity, has been banned.
Additional reporting by Zhang Yan in Shanghai and Gu Yu and Jamil Anderlini in Beijing
张嫣(Zhang Yan)上海、谷禹(Gu Yu)和吉密欧(Jamil Anderlini)北京补充报道
刚表态过的朋友 (2 人)