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16 Jan, 2014

Beijing sets sights on park venues in corruption drive


Beijing (China Daily ) 2014-01-16  – Private clubs and high-end entertainment venues in Beijing‘s public parks have become the latest target of the nation’s clean-governance campaign.

Authorities in the capital asked such establishments on Wednesday to close, one day after President Xi Jinping said that “regulations should not become paper tigers or scarecrows”.

Recent Chinese media reports said high-end entertainment venues and private clubs in public parks could be hotbeds for corruption.

Zhao Yuqi, an official with Beijing’s Party disciplinary watchdog, said at a news briefing that such establishments occupy public areas, which are supposed to be open to all visitors.

Qin Qianhong, a law professor at Wuhan University, said shutting the establishments echoes the central government’s call for clean governance. “Beijing’s move reflects the authorities’ determination to fight graft, as they have noticed that some corruption activities take place in private clubs,” Qin said.

In December, the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection asked Party members, especially senior leaders, not to enter private clubs or be members of them.

Zhao said that Beijing launched a campaign on Jan 9 to investigate private clubs and high-end restaurants in public parks and at cultural relic sites.

Zhang Yahong, head of the park administration department at the city’s bureau of landscape and forestry, said the park campaign has uncovered 24 establishments with operational problems. Of these, two high-end restaurants in Beihai Park have been closed, she said.

The two restaurants made headlines recently, with media reports saying they only served members — mainly government officials and private businesspeople.

A manager from one of the restaurants claimed that media reports were “useless” in removing them from the park, according to a report in November by Economic Information Daily, run by Xinhua News Agency.

Zhang said Beijing will continue to investigate other public parks, targeting luxury establishments serving only small groups.

Qin from Wuhan University said the authorities should tighten checks on public servants’ power.

The budgets of government departments should be controlled and supervised strictly, he said.

Fences removed

The authorities have asked some private clubs and top entertainment venues in parks to cater to mass audiences.

Wenyuelou, formerly a private club in Beijing’s Zizhuyuan Park, has been turned into a restaurant open to all visitors. The park attracted more than 10 million visits in 2013.

Fences that used to keep people away from the two-story building have been removed to provide more public open space around the restaurant, said Zhai Jingyu, head of the park’s business department.

The price of dishes has been lowered. Previously, the average charge per person was 500 to 600 yuan ($82 to $98), while the new average charge is 100 yuan, with the lowest-priced dish being 30 yuan, said Li Xuefeng, a manager at the restaurant.

Zhai said the change was made in response to the central government’s call to fight corruption.

Wenyuelou, which occupies 700 square meters, was built near the park’s main lake and opened in 2012.

Some visitors said the restaurant should be removed to make more room for sightseeing. A regular visitor to the park, who is in her 60s but declined to give her name, said on Wednesday that the park should not establish such a big restaurant to make money.