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'Congratulatory fees' for new office probed

A CENTRAL China county has launched an inquiry into a township government accused of demanding at least 2,000 yuan (US$294) in congratulatory fees from subsidiary villages, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

If true, officials will be punished, the Party secretary of Daoxian County in Hunan Province's Yongzhou City said.

Village officials said officials in Daoxian's Gongba Town had called them on March 15 to invite them to the launch of the township government's new office building on March 19. Township officials set the congratulatory fees at a minimum of 2,000 yuan.

All the leaders of the villages turned up and paid between 2,000 yuan and 10,000 yuan. A total of 200,000 yuan was collected, the report said, quoting a township government worker.

Tang Xiaodong, Party secretary of Youzhawu Village, where the average yearly income is about 4,000 yuan, said village officials had to use money set aside for other purposes to pay the congratulatory fees.

Tang said Guo Guoqing, Gongba's Party secretary, asked the village officials to offer money to help the township government with its financial problems, as the new office building had cost a lot.

Guo denied the charge. He said he set the 2,000-yuan limit to prevent village officials from offering larger sums of money.

Describing the congratulatory fee as a social activity, Guo said the township government didn't need to collect money for the new office building as it had largely been funded by the county government.

The township government had spent 250,000 yuan on the new offices, and 200,000 yuan had already been funded by the county government, he said. It can apply for the left 50,000 to the county government.

Daoxian County's Party secretary Yi Guangming said the county government had launched an inquiry into the case.

Yu Heng, the county's disciplinary supervisor, said if township officials had asked for congratulatory money, that was wrong. He was at the ceremony and offered 1,000 yuan as a congratulatory fee.


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