Dinner with cadres taken off the menu

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am

Charity banquet postponed due to poor preparation

A charity banquet where a seat next to a top official cost 38,000 yuan has been postponed indefinitely, partly to due to difficulties in booking the venue - the Great Hall of the People.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people had been expected to attend the February 1 gala, billed as a state banquet and a chance for local and international revellers to dine with senior Communist Party and government officials.

But the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, a mainland charity overseen by the State Council, announced that the event had been postponed - five days after it was introduced to the public - due to insufficient preparations.

Liu Wenkui, the foundation's vice-general secretary, said a new date for the banquet had not been set and it was possible it could be cancelled altogether.

Long Chen , a vice-director of the event's organising committee, said: 'It's really new on the mainland to have top cadres and donors dining together in a banquet hall, although such events are popular in foreign countries.

'Since this was our first attempt at such an event, we were lacking a bit of experience in getting it up and running.' He said hiring the hall was proving difficult due to the complexity of the procedures involved.

'There were also other unexpected matters that we failed to resolve in time,' Mr Long said yesterday, without giving details.

Mr Long said the foundation would have to examine the planning of the event in greater detail if it was held in future.

The committee had said the names of officials attending the event would have been announced 30 minutes before the dinner. It was not known how many would have attended, but they would have been at least at the level of a National People's Congress Standing Committee vice-chairman or a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference vice-chairman.

Proceeds from the event were to go to a programme launched last year to equip young people in rural districts with professional skills to help them find jobs in metropolitan areas.

'We received many calls about tickets, mostly from entrepreneurs involved in companies in Guangdong, Yunnan , Guizhou and Xinjiang ,' Mr Long said. Ticket prices started at 1,800 yuan a head.

Since the event was cancelled, Beijing media have quoted sources from the foundation as saying the words 'state banquet' should not have been used in the advertising campaign. Only the central government had the right to host a state banquet, the sources said.