Hunan introduces party-pooping austerity measures

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 3:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 6:35pm

The southern Chinese province of Hunan has devised a set of party-pooping austerity measures that will restrict the size and scale of weddings, funerals and other celebrations as well as limiting gifts for its 66 million residents, according to a report in the Changsha Evening News.

Personal celebrations, such as birthdays, graduations or promotions must now remain family affairs, and inviting civil servants is strictly forbidden according to new regulations implemented on Friday.

For life’s more monumental moments, the rules are slightly relaxed. Friends and colleagues are permitted to attend weddings and funerals. When it comes to presents, however, they’re off the hook. Only family members and colleagues from the same workplace are allowed to bring gifts.

Local government worker, Mr Li, was in favour of the policy. “I used to spend close to half my annual salary on gifts for friends”, he told the Changsha Evening News.

Extravagant receptions that are commonplace in rural China will become a thing of the past in Hunan. Weddings are now limited to a maximum of 200 people, or 20 tables. When the bride and groom hail from the same place, 300 people are allowed.

Party planners might need to consider location more carefully, for fear of leaving important guests at the mercy of public transport. Processional motorcades are limited to a maximum of eight cars.

The regulations have been designed to address the inevitable waste of lavish celebrations, as well as official corruption, officials say. Expensive gift-giving has long been associated with bribery and embezzlement.

Mr Zhu, former Chair of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, agreed. He told the Changsha Evening News that the new policy would address the fact that giving and receiving gifts had been a way to cultivate guanxi (connections), adding that people would have difficulty adjusting to the new rules.

Many on social media agreed, “Widespread publicity, supervision and transparent reporting channels are absolutely essential. The regulations must be strictly enforced and offenders must be punished”, wrote one Hunan resident on weibo.

But not everyone was so enthusiastic. Local restaurant owners said they were already feeling the effects of the regulations, as the plans were made public before Friday’s implementation.

“About half a month ago, customers began cancelling or decreasing the size of their bookings”, said the owner of a restaurant in the provincial capital Changsha.

The government was less than sympathetic. “The regulations do not ban weddings in restaurants; they simply lay out some controls and limits. In the short term, the regulations will affect Hunan’s restaurateurs, but as soon as they learn to change their tactics and focus more on regular customers, their businesses will become prosperous again” said a spokesperson from Hunan’s Food Industry Association.