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'Accusation against wedding banquet exaggerated'

By Li Yao (China Daily)

10:52, January 10, 2013

Disciplinary authorities have said that an online post accusing an official of collecting 1 million yuan ($158,860) in cash gifts at his son's wedding banquet was largely exaggerated, as experts suggested that online information should be carefully identified.

An online post that went viral said that Wang Qinsheng, the deputy director of the Hunan provincial department of justice, threw a 30-table wedding banquet for his son at a five-star hotel on Jan 3. The post said that more than 100 justice officials and 20 police vehicles were seen at the wedding.

According to the post, Wang received about 1 million yuan in red envelopes containing cash as gifts to the newlyweds - a traditional Chinese custom that has been used by subordinates eyeing promotions and businesses seeking favors as an occasion to offer bribes.

"No evidence has been found to support the online accusation that Wang collected 1 million yuan (at the wedding)," Cai Tingying, a senior anti-graft official in Hunan province, said in an interview broadcast on China Central Television on Tuesday.

Wang submitted the 140,000 yuan in cash he received at the wedding as gifts to authorities, the provincial disciplinary watchdog said. The money will be counted and returned to the people who gave it to Wang as gifts, it added.

Wang said he didn't invite any of his colleagues or subordinates to the wedding, but that some of them showed up anyway, and that he then had to treat them as guests.

Separately, another online accusation regarding the private use of public vehicles at the wedding banquet has been found to be valid, authorities said.

At least 11 police cars were parked outside the wedding banquet venue last week.

The misuse of police cars will be fully investigated, and once verified, will incur severe discipline. Tighter rules will also be introduced to manage the use of police vehicles, said Zheng Yongqi, an official leading the investigation.

Wang said in the CCTV interview that he did not notice the parked police cars, as he was busy greeting guests inside the hotel where the wedding took place.

Wang said the hotel he chose was modest and that 85,000 yuan covered everything for the banquet, a sum far from extravagant. Citing further evidence of a frugal budget, Wang said he did not hire a wedding limousine.

As is common practice for similar-level officials, Wang reported the wedding banquet plans to disciplinary authorities on Dec 20, stating that no colleagues or subordinates would be invited.

Ren Jianming, an anti-corruption expert in Beijing, said that an increasing number of whistle-blowers are using the Internet to expose corrupt officials. However, people should always remember to verify the information provided by Web whistle-blowers, Ren added.

Typically such information gathers quick support from netizens, which forces disciplinary watchdogs to step in and investigate. The prevalence of online anti-corruption efforts sends a warning to officials and prevents corrupt activities, Ren said.

Whistle-blowers should follow basic legal requirements on the Internet, such as not spreading unfounded rumors or using slanderous or verbally abusive language, Ren said.

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