Age-conscious officials resort to surgery

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland officials have resorted to cosmetic surgery and falsification of their birthdates to beat another major job prospect hurdle - their age.

Their actions have led to suggestions that the current appointment system be reformed and replaced by a 'market mechanism' under which the main criteria for judging an official's fitness to work would be their performance and physical condition.

However, concerns have been expressed that such a move could lead to a revival of the 'old-men politics' that dominated until recently.

Renowned plastic surgeon Chen Huanran, from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, has been quoted by mainland media as saying an increasing number of officials have been coming to him for cosmetic surgery.

Dr Chen said most visited him at night and wanted him to remove bags under their eyes and wrinkles.

In Shaanxi province, Gou Shuchang, the head of Weinan's disciplinary inspection commission, was removed from duty recently after he was caught replacing his real age of 50 with 48 on his personal file, according to the Shaanxi Daily.

A recent report in People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece, said the main reason officials were faking their ages could be traced to the appointment system for cadres and the fact they were required to step down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age - 60 for men and 55 for women.

Such an 'across-the-board' practice had led officials to resort to various tricks to get around it.

As a short-term preventive measure, People's Daily suggested establishing a 'blacklist' system that would see the names of officials who faked their personal records made public.

Their official job prospects could also be restricted or even removed depending on the seriousness of their offences.

Another suggested measure was an accountability system under which officials who assisted in or failed to expose the age-faking of subordinates would also be held responsible.

But in the long term, it said, the market mechanism should guide the appointment process.

'Under the market system, quality, ability and health are the main factors behind their employment ... age is no longer the main determinant,' it said, adding that such a practice was widely adopted in the west.