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Restaurants 'loss is private clubs' gain

By Zhang Zihan (Global Times)

10:33, April 15, 2013

While government spending in high-end restaurants has declined since government calls for more efforts to curb corruption and unnecessary consumption, government and military officials have turned to expensive private clubs instead.

According to a China Central Television (CCTV) news report Saturday, officials are increasingly frequenting private clubs in the capital.

A CCTV undercover reporter managed to get inside one unamed private high-end club on the North Second Ring Road and questioned staff using a hidden camera.

"We had many customers even during the [March] two sessions, many of them are department directors," the employee told CCTV.

At the club, the lowest amount per head for a meal is 598 yuan ($97) per person; it can go up to 6,000 yuan per head, the employee said.

The Global Times visited two private clubs in Beijing Sunday. At both locations, local residents alleged they often saw luxury vehicles with military plates parked outside.

A Beijing resident, who gave her surname as Zhang, said Sunday that she has seen luxury vehicles with military license plates visiting Yinxingfu, a private club in Xiezuo Hutong, Dongcheng district, for a long time.

"Military vehicles frequently visit that club since it was built last year. Our narrow hutong makes them obvious to everyone," said Zhang.

In Tuanjiehu, Chaoyang district, many residents claimed that government and military vehicles are often spotted in front of a club called Shanhailou on Tuanjiehu Lu.

A local resident, surnamed Lu, said that government officials park carefully when they visit this club.

"Usually they take their parking permits off the dash board, but some careless ones still leave them there," he said.

Another resident, surnamed Xie, said she saw luxury vehicles with military tags almost every night.

"So far I've seen Audis, BMWs and Mercedes with military licenses," she said.

Yinxingfu offers food and beverage services priced from 888 yuan to 1,500 yuan per person, according to its website. The cheapest dessert on Shanhailou's menu is 38 yuan and the most expensive dish is abalone at 1,980 yuan. According to, a Chinese consumer website, the average cost at both clubs is around 850 yuan per person per meal.

Both Yinxingfu and Shanhailou are private clubs. Staff at the reception desk of Shanhailou said it is only open to members and must be booked 24 hours ahead. He refused to comment when being questioned whether governmental officials are frequent visitors.

President Xi Jinping called in January for all Party members to fight against privilege in order to fight against corruption. CCTV reported on January 23 that President Xi had said in order to achieve this, Party members must resolutely reject formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance, and fight against corruption and other misconduct in all manifestations.

Li Tuo, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance told the Global Times that corrupt officials simply cannot avoid the temptation of power.

"They abuse their power to get access to all these luxuries and enjoyments, and once they get used to it they can't leave it behind," he said.

Li called for tougher punishments to make corrupt officials think twice.

"Our current punishments for corrupt officials are still too mild," Li said.

Lin Zhe, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, suggested that an official list should be made to prevent officials from wasting public funds.

"A database of officials should be made to monitor their public spending. All the clubs should join this database to watch the officials, and it should be open to the public for supervision," said Lin.

Lin also said people, especially employees of clubs, should be rewarded if they have the courage to report officials who go there.

"Everyone should be mobilized to join the supervision of officials to keep them away from corruption," Lin said.

There are over 4,000 private member clubs in Beijing, with the most exclusive named as the Chang'an Club, Capital Club, the China Club Beijing and the Beijing American Club, according to Money Week magazine in June 2011. At that time, these "big four" clubs charged membership fees of up to 2 million yuan, the report said.

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