HONG KONG—Chinese netizens have lashed out at the hard-drinking culture among government and ruling Communist Party officials, after a court ruled that officials who died while drinking would have their cases treated as work-related accidents.
“Everyone knows about the ordeal of drinking that Chinese Communist Party officials go through,” commented prominent blogger Ran Yunfei via the microblogging service Twitter.
“We just never thought that it would sink to such depths of shame.”
Ran and other netizens were reacting in part to a recent ruling from the People’s High Court in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, which said government officials who died drinking—often on behalf of their superiors—while at official networking functions, might be treated as work-related injury cases.
The ruling could make them eligible for compensation.
The news of the ruling was reported in local media around the same time as a traffic police unit chief in the southern city of Shenzhen was relieved of office after a subordinate, surnamed Chen, was declared a “martyr” following his death from drinking.
Both the Shenzhen case and the Chongqing court ruling sparked widespread ire and sarcasm among Chinese Twitter users.
“It’s already bad enough that he drank himself to death,” tweeted “williamxue.”
“To have him declared a martyr is to heap wrong upon wrong.”
Some, like user “yuanrch,” tweeted back with satire.
“Netizens are calling for the remains of this battle-hardened hero who has stood the test of booze to be sent to the Babaoshan Cemetery because he is a warrior of the proletariat who has been baptized in alcohol for a lifetime, who finally fell by the wayside,” yuanrch commented.
Tweeted “along5418”: “This is a Chinese joke,” while “Sx-049s_normal” wrote: “We see this quite a lot. This is what we call Chinese characteristics.”
Earlier, user “buwuzhengye” wrote: “Talk about moving with the times! Now not only does it count as a work-related accident if you die of drinking [while] carrying out public office, but you can even apply to become a martyr.”
An official who answered the phone at the Shenzhen traffic police department Monday declined to give details of Chen’s case.
“I have no idea,” the official said. “I have nothing to tell you, because I am a government employee.”
The news has renewed concern about the health and social impact of China’s massive drinking culture, which is often paid for by the taxpayer.
According to Beijing-based lawyer Jiang Tianyong, under normal circumstances, a job shouldn’t be carried out by drinking.
“However, the reality in China is that many issues have to be solved on the dinner table,” Jiang said.
“This is a problem that needs to be dealt with seriously, but instead, it will persist with help of this new regulation.”
Other analysts said the drinking culture of Communist Party officials was simply another form of graft.
“It is not just a matter of squandering public funds, but also a different form of corruption,” said Zheng Fengtian, an economist from Beijing’s People’s University.
“For example, a lower ranking government official ought to drink a lot on behalf of his boss, very likely resulting in drink-related deaths,” he said.
“This new regulation is apparently being made to protect such low-ranking officials, but it is more likely to harm than protect them,” he said, adding that officials who refused to drink at all were less likely to build connections crucial to their own advancement.
The Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Daily reported that Chen’s death won his family 650,000 yuan as compensation.
But his case isn’t isolated.
In February, Henan county-level family planning official Guo Shizhong died of excessive drinking and was later eulogized as “an outstanding Party member.”
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Additional translation by Jia Yuan. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.