Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Party's corruption watchdog on the lookout for Mid-Autumn Festival extravagance

Anti-corruption watchdog issues new warnings to officials to resist squandering public funds a month ahead of Mid-Autumn celebrations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 6:05pm

Beijing has warned officials to avoid luxurious mooncakes or using the Mid-Autumn Festival as an occasion for wasteful public spending one month ahead of the celebrations.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) set up a webpage on Sunday for people to report on such spending of public funds or other violations of party discipline.

The festival has long been associated with corruption among officials because of gift-giving and extravagance during the holidays.

Mooncakes, the traditional snack for the festival, had become more and more elaborate and expensive, often costing more than 1,000 yuan (HK$1,260) per tin, with fancy packaging to be given as a luxury gift. There have even been mooncakes cast in silver or gold as collectibles.

All this came to an abrupt halt last year when Beijing launched its so-called mooncake anti-corruption campaign. The CCDI issued a warning and the party's Central Committee issued three directives warning officials not to use the occasion as an opportunity for public spending on luxury mooncakes and gifts.

Internet users left messages on the CCDI's webpage as well as tip-offs, saying graft surrounding the festival had resurfaced.

"Now it is not about luxury, but about prepaid cards, delivery cards and issuing all-purpose invoices," one internet user wrote.

Another said some shopping malls and supermarkets had launched covert channels for public spending by issuing notes with official chops to be used as gift vouchers or delivery cards to help avoid detection .

Following the party's crackdown on extravagance and luxury spending with public funds, the market too has embraced the change. Hotels and mooncake manufacturers, for example, are offering cheaper products with simpler packaging.

Quanjude, a restaurant chain in Beijing, is offering boxes of mooncakes for as little as 49 yuan, compared with 98 yuan last year. The company is also offering more bulk sales of mooncakes.

The company, famous for its Peking duck restaurants, said it had dropped its fancy and elaborate packaging in favour of a simple, recyclable metal box.

Daoxiangcun, a chain of traditional bakeries and snack stores, is offering more mooncakes priced under 200 yuan, and even 100 yuan.

A sales assistant at a five-star Wangfujing hotel that has been selling luxury mooncakes for more than 20 years said that far fewer had been ordered this year because of an expected drop in demand.

The hotel's mooncakes, which cost more than 300 yuan, were not selling very well, and were mostly reserved by regular customers for their families.

"The price of mooncakes is lower than in previous years and you hardly see expensive ones on the shelves," said another saleswoman at a large supermarket in Chaoyang district.

"Mooncakes come in fewer varieties and with less fancy packaging. The government has been telling officials to keep their gifts plain and simple so we provided fewer expensive ones this year. Most of our mooncakes cost around 200 yuan."