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Crackdown on government cars begins in earnest

By Chen Xin (China Daily)

08:15, February 16, 2013

A high-profile publicity official in Southwest China's Yunnan province said he will strive to prevent government cars from being used for private purposes.

Wu Hao, chief of the publicity department of the Honghe Hani and Yi autonomous prefecture, made the comment on his micro blog on Thursday, saying his department will continue a "micro reform".

Wu was responding to some people who questioned his right to use solely a government vehicle.

On Feb 10, Wu released the plate number of a government car, which he often uses, on the micro-blogging site, hoping the public can help oversee the use of the car.

"It is a fact, and is also a problem that, nationwide, city and township-level officials and even village heads use government vehicles for private use," he said on the micro blog.

Wu said the car intended for his use is also used by other officials. "The car is often used for official receptions. Many reporters, writers and movie stars who came to Honghe rode in the vehicle," he said.

Wu's comments nearly always trigger heated online discussion because he is one of the first high-profile officials to start micro-blogging and he often touches on sensitive issues, such as forced demolitions.

Wu, the former spokesman for the Yunnan provincial committee of the Communist Party of China, has more than 1.8 million followers of his micro blog.

His decision to release the number plate of the car he uses has won the support of many because the public usually pays close attention to government spending, and is unhappy with officials using government cars for private purposes.

In one example, four officials with the Nansha district bureau of city administration and law enforcement in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, drove a government car to a suburban restaurant to have dinner during Spring Festival. The officials have been suspended from their positions, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Wu said his department will continue a "micro reform" to ensure the number plates of more government vehicles are released to boost public efforts to help deter private use of government cars.

This will also involve setting up a team comprising local residents and publicity officials to oversee government spending when his department holds official receptions.

Wu said he hopes such efforts can be made elsewhere.

Yang Tuan, an expert with the Social Policy Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "It's commendable that an individual official has released the plate number of a government car he uses."

But she suggested drawing up more concrete regulations, introducing more efficient up-down implementation, and bringing in more severe punishment for violators, to crack down on the private use of government vehicles.

Lu Hanlong, a sociology expert with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said public efforts are needed to oversee the use of government vehicles, but more importance lies with internal supervision.

"Strengthened internal supervision over government car use is the key to addressing the problem," he said. "Frequency of use and gasoline consumption can be kept in records, and a cut in the budget for government car purchases and use will work."

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