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Crackdown sees officials wed by the book

A Liaoning cadre showcases a “modest” wedding banquet—but the public refuses to bite

For many Chinese, a wedding can be as much an occasion for grieving as celebrating—particularly if you’re invited as a guest.

The custom of giving newlyweds increasingly lavish hongbao (red envelopes) full of cash is often seen as a symptom of modern decadence, but recently, one 36-year-old cadre in Tieling, Liaoning province, tried to buck the trend by asking guests to bring books to his wedding. Li Zheng even promised guests they would receive books in return.

A righteous tale of a learned man who lives by his principles, right? Wrong.

While Chinese news outlets seem intent on making a role model of the man, emphasizing his status as an official, readers claim such meritorious behavior is only being emphasized because the hongbao custom has been a well-known smokescreen for bribery. Netizen comments on these reports suggest (only half-jokingly) that the books were stuffed with money.

As part of China’s national anti-corruption campaign in recent years, banquets thrown by government officials for private events have been closely scrutinized by both the leadership and a wary public. Li is only the latest official on the latter’s radar.

Take Xiao Hong, a university official in central China: In 2014, he was reprimanded for accepting money at his son’s wedding banquet, in which seven of the 38 tables were filled with his colleagues and friends in government. Xiao was given a warning and ordered to return the 25,000 RMB he received in hongbao.

His was still a small loss compared to Cui Ruying, head of a township discipline-inspection authority in Chongqing’s Fuling District, who was found to have received 107,250 RMB as gifts at his father’s birthday party in 2014. According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, some 17,600 yuan came from his fellow officials. Cui was given a “serious warning” and removed from his post.

Not surprisingly, then, the public saw Li’s show of good behavior as more show than anything else:



So there was money inside the books?



Doesn’t everybody just use Alipay these days?



Isn’t it just for show? What’s the point of reporting it in the media? Was there any purpose other than to waste media resources and annoy everyone?



This boy understands politics, knows how to hype himself up, he’ll get promotions in the future.


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author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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