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Probe into congratulatory fee demand

A CENTRAL China county has launched an inquiry into a township government which is accused of demanding 2,000 yuan (US$294) in congratulatory fees from subsidiary villages.

If the accusation turns out to be true, officials of the township will be punished, the Party secretary of Daoxian County in Hunan Province's Yongzhou City has said.

Village officials said officials in Daoxian's Songba Town had called them on March 15 to invite them to the launch of the township government's new office building on March 17. Township officials set the congratulatory fees at a minimum of 2,000 yuan, the Beijing News said today.

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 village official Tang Xiaodong.

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

He said Guo Guoqing, Songba'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 merely to prevent village officials from offering larger sums of money. He said village officials had understood him.

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 already been funded by the county government.

The township government had spent 250,000 yuan on the new offices, all funded by the county government, he said.

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

Yu Heng, the county's disciplinary supervisor, said it was all right for village officials to give congratulatory money to the township government. But if the township officials had asked for the money, that was wrong.

Yu said he went to the ceremony himself and offered 1,000 yuan as a congratulatory fee.


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