Booze ban for China region's civil servants

A waitress pours a bottle of wine at a banquet Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Drying out: Official functions will be mostly alcohol free in Anhui province in future

A province in eastern China has become the latest to crack down on civil servants' boozy working lunches by banning them from touching alcohol during official duties.

Business meetings conducted over a meal can often be alcohol-heavy in China, but in Anhui province they'll be sober affairs in future, the People's Daily website reports. Drinking is now banned during the workday and at all official activities, be it conferences or deal-making dinners. It's being described in Chinese media as the "most stringent ever" implemented in the province. The only exceptions will be for events relating to foreign affairs, or those aimed at attracting investment.

An investigation was launched in Anhui in February after several civil servants died of alcohol poisoning following official banquets, state news agency Xinhua says.

A national alcohol ban for civil servants was proposed in 2009 but not adopted, and while some areas have brought in their own rules to stop on-the-job drinking, they have often prompted complaints from bars and restaurants about a loss of business. Toning down extravagant spending among officials, including lavish dining habits, has been a key part of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive since he took office in 2012.

Even Anhui's big government events will be less boozy from now on: in June, the province banned alcohol from being served at most official banquets. One civil servant told China Daily that many Chinese believe you can learn a lot about a person's character from their approach to alcohol, so it can be a way of building trust, but that some officials hate the drinking culture.

Among Chinese social media users there's broad support for the changes. "How was this provision not implemented sooner?" asks one user. Another says: "This is good, in my opinion, drinking at work is not a good idea." And several can't believe that Anhui has taken so long to stop its staff from drinking while on duty.

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