Lavish Chinese police wedding sparks outrage

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2010 12:26 AM

Police in southern China are investigating a lavish wedding banquet thrown by a senior police officer for his daughter following media criticism, news reports said Tuesday.

Scrutiny over Sunday's banquet in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen underscores outrage over rampant official corruption and perks seen as syphoning off public resources to a privileged communist elite.

Official Communist Party newspaper Guangzhou Daily quoted police spokesman Zhou Baojun, as saying an investigation had been opened into the 110-table wedding dinner thrown by Liu Shengqiang, a deputy director of the Shenzhen airport police.

The cost of the banquet was estimated by newspapers at up to 600,000 yuan ($88,000) _ a staggering sum in a country where the average urban per capita income last year was $2,320.

It was not clear how the banquet was paid for, but usually cash gifts from guests far outweigh the costs of such functions.

Zhou pledged results would be made public, but did not say when the investigation would be completed.

Liu defended himself saying he was compelled to hold such a lavish event because of the large number of friends and family.

"Both families have lived in Shenzhen for decades and my old army buddies just expect to be invited," Liu was quoted as saying.

Such banquets are a must for socially connected families in China, a chance to network and display wealth and influence. Guests are expected to offer cash gifts known as "hong bao" to offset the costs. Those can also be a convenient vehicle for offering bribes and buying influence.

Reports said the more than 1,000 guests were treated to pricey delicacies such as shark's fin soup and abalone at a price of almost 4,000 yuan ($588) per table.

Calls to the Shenzhen police spokesman's office rang unanswered on Tuesday.

China's communists are anxious to project an image of clean hands and responsible leadership, and media reports of such excesses have at times had an impact.

Just days before Liu's banquet, another leading officer in Guangdong province was suspended after reports appeared about a house warming party he held for more than 1,000 guests.

While the party consistently identifies corruption as a threat to its rule, it has taken only halting steps to address the problem.

Party leaders meeting last year said they wanted to force top officials to declare homes, investments, and their family member's jobs and incomes, but reached no consensus on how to do that.