Award for Chinese official after tragedy

A Chinese official who drank himself to death has been named an “outstanding communist”, even though the city where he worked is the focus of a campaign against government employee alcohol abuse, state media reported on Tuesday.

Guo Shizhong, 45, director of a district family planning bureau in Xinyang City, died of a brain haemorrhage after drinking himself into a stupor and collapsing in a karaoke bar in the city, according to medical reports from the ambulance and hospital that treated him, a person who has seen the reports told the Financial Times.

Guo was posthumously awarded a “level-three order of merit” and named an “outstanding communist” by the government in Xinyang in the central Chinese province of Henan.

The award entitles his family to continue receiving 10 per cent of his government salary.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly warned that official corruption poses a threat to the Communist party and Beijing has launched numerous anti-corruption drives in recent years.

But these often go nowhere after reaching the local level, where officials traditionally spend many hours wining and dining with each other and businessmen seeking favours.

Xinyang, a municipality of nearly 8m people, is the focus of a widely publicised anti-corruption campaign targeting officials who drink at lunchtime.

Government coffers are overflowing even as income disparity worsens across the country and overt displays of largesse by party officials are a common source of discontent.

The Xinyang campaign to stamp out the common practice of liquor-soaked lunches paid for with state funds began a year ago when a task force was set up to perform random breath tests on officials, and reporters were invited to watch as some offenders were fired on the spot.

Officials quoted in state media said 269 party officials had been punished so far and an estimated Rmb43m ($6m, €4m, £3m) in state funds saved so far.

More than half a dozen other cities have adopted the policy and alcohol distributors in the region complain this has led to a drop of as much as 30 per cent in sales.

“The government ban on civil servants drinking at lunchtime has had a huge impact on my business,” said Shao Li, a liquor retailer and wholesaler in Xinyang. “Many in the liquor wholesale business have had to quit.”

On the night of February 26, Guo was invited to dinner at a restaurant by other officials. After the meal the group went upstairs to a karaoke bar and hired hostesses to accompany them, according to the Orient Today, a state-controlled newspaper based in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province. The report quoted bar hostesses as saying that Guo was a regular customer.

They said that he passed out drunk on a sofa and his companions later called an ambulance when they realised he had stopped breathing.

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