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China bans shark fin soup from official receptions
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 08, 2013

China announced a ban on the serving of shark fin and bird's nest soup at official banquets Sunday, as part of a sweeping government crackdown on corruption and excessive spending.

Shark fin has effectively been off the menu at official dining tables since 2012 when Beijing pledged to bar the popular yet controversial delicacy as part of its anti-extravagance campaign.

Demand for shark fin has plummeted after many high-end hotels and restaurants stopped serving the dish, along with other expensive delicacies favoured by Communist Party officials such as abalone and bird's nest soup.

An order from the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council "explicitly ruled out dishes containing shark fins, bird nests and wild animal products in official reception dinners," the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday.

"Officials on business tours should arrange their own meals according to relevant expenditure standards and the local hosts are allowed to provide only one reception dinner if needed," it said, citing the regulation.

The detailed document also bars expensive liquors and cigarettes from being offered at local authority receptions, as it aims to "regulate" spending on receptions given by local authorities for visiting party or government officials, Xinhua said.

Officials below provincial level are also banned from renting hotel suites on business trips, while local hosts are forbidden to give them cash, securities or souvenirs as gifts.

Chinese officials have long held lavish liquor-drenched receptions as a way of building business relationships, greasing the wheels of power, and showing off wealth and status.

The new rules are intended "to promote frugality, oppose extravagance and enhance the anti-corruption efforts among party and governmental authorities," Xinhua said.

Xi Jinping, who took office as president in March after becoming Communist Party chief in November 2012, has vowed to crack down on corruption at all levels of government, calling it a threat to the future of the ruling party.

State media said last month that nearly 17,000 people have been punished for flouting the party's "frugality" guidelines.

Offences included violating a "ban on government building projects, excessive spending on receptions, use of government vehicles for private purposes, unnecessary trips in China and abroad, using public money, as well as excessively large wedding banquets," Xinhua said at the time.

Shark-fin soup was once a luxury enjoyed by China's elite, but shark populations have been decimated around the world as the country's 1.3 billion people have grown wealthier and incorporated it into their festivities.

Hong Kong's government said in September it would stop serving shark fin at official functions as "a good example", following years of lobbying by conservation groups.

Companies including the Shangri-La hotel group and Cathay Pacific have also moved to stop serving or carrying shark fin.


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