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Tax money used for spa treatment

SENIOR officials in Shenzhen are allowed to enjoy massages using public money, according to a post on the Website of the city's construction bureau.

The post, by the government-backed Qilin Mountain Sanatorium, said department level officials have an annual allowance of 4,000 yuan (US$584) for "recuperation services," including foot and body massages, while each division chief has an allocation of 2,100 yuan, Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday.

Shenzhen has more than 200 department level officials and about 2,500 division chiefs, which means the city has allocated more than 6.5 million yuan for its senior civil servants to spend on massages, according to the report.

Senior officials may also use their allowance on health care treatments, fishing trips, tennis and training courses in designated resorts and luxury hotels in Shenzhen and other cities in Guangdong Province.

A senior office clerk at Shenzhen's finance department told the newspaper on Thursday the budget was made by the organization department of the Communist Party of China's Shenzhen Committee.

The most expensive massage in the Qilin Mountain Sanatorium is a Thai massage, which costs 248 yuan an hour, or up to 290 yuan with the best therapist.

The post was discovered during the annual session of the local People's Congress. Concerns were raised among delegates and political advisors about the use of public funds for massage treatments.

Yang Jianchang, a Shenzhen delegate, said the expense hadn't been listed in the city's annual budget and had never been signed off by the city's People's Congress.

"If it was necessary for senior officials to have these treatments, the money should be spent justly and openly," Yang said.

Yang Yiping, a lawyer and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said civil servants should spend taxpayers' money thriftily, especially during the economic slowdown and financial crisis.

Around 900 companies shut down in Shenzhen in 2008, at a cost of 90,000 jobs.


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