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November 18, 2009

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Officials sacked over forced lottery sale

NEIGHBORHOOD officials in southwestern China's Sichuan Province have been fired or suspended from work after forcing low-income residents to buy welfare lottery when they claim government-sponsored living allowances.

Wang Surong, dean of the Wencheng Neighborhood Committee of Sichuan's Suining City, was removed from the position and other officials involved in the sale were fired, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

The local government launched an investigation after receiving complaints from local residents, Xinhua said.

Eighty-year-old Wu Yuhua told Xinhua she was forced to buy a 10-yuan (US$1.46) ticket when she claimed her 185-yuan living allowance from the committee early this month.

"Last month they had asked me to buy a ticket and I rejected," Wu said. "But this time they said I would not be allowed to take my living allowance if I didn't buy the ticket. Anyway, I was lucky enough to win a 20-yuan prize from the ticket."

Another unnamed resident also said he was forced to use 10 percent of his 275-yuan living allowance to buy the tickets. "The 10 percent of my income, though meagre to many people, is a large sum for me because it will cover food for my family for a couple of days," he said.

Local civil affairs officials attributed the forced ticket sales to the neighborhood officials' misunderstanding of the lottery authority's encouragement to sell tickets for the city's flat welfare lottery.

Suining sets targets for lottery sale each year and the targets increase every year, according to Lei Ming, vice director of Suizhou City's Civil Affairs Bureau.

But the city has never reached those sales targets, according to Lei.


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