Binge drinking kills 3rd China official this year

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2009 3:01 AM

A Communist Party official in China has died from excessive drinking, the third such alcohol poisoning case that highlights the problems of a drinking culture connected with government and business work, an official newspaper reported Monday.

Shen Hao, secretary of the Communist Party of Xiaogang Village in eastern Anhui province, was found dead in bed last week after binge drinking while entertaining business associates during an official banquet, the China Daily newspaper reported.

It was the third reported case this year of a government official's death linked to alcohol poisoning, the newspaper said.

Two government officials in southern China died in separate cases earlier this year after they fell into comas following official banquets that involved excessive drinking.

The cases highlight the heavy ritualized role drinking plays in business and government circles in China. Bai jiu, the potent rice liquor, is a permanent presence at elaborate banquets, where "Gan bei," or "Bottoms up," is the official toast.

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Drinking with official guests or other officials at alcohol-soaked events is expected of government officials in China, where banquets are a mandatory exercise in welcoming VIPs and are usually covered by government funds.

Chinese academics have estimated that government officials spend about 500 billion yuan ($73 billion) in public funds each year on official banquets, nearly one-third of the nation's expenses on dining out.