Chinese officials and police have been told to step up safety precautions in “key regions” and be on alert for terrorist attacks during the New Year and Spring Festival holidays amid ethnic tensions in Xinjiang.
The order was given in a circular issued by the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Dec. 27. The document also reminded officials to avoid extravagance and reiterated a ban on the use of public funds for gift giving and entertainment.
“All-out efforts should be made to ensure social stability and harmony,” according to the circular. Related agencies should “solve problems that have aroused strong public complaints properly so as to prevent mass incidents at their roots,” it said.
The party’s warning follows what the Xinjiang government described as a terrorist attack on police in the restive northwest province earlier this month which left 16 people dead, and a disturbance in November which killed 11. China has also linked a Uighur militant group founded in the region to an October incident in which a vehicle rammed into a crowd near Tiananmen Square in Beijing and burst into flames, killing the three occupants and two bystanders.
China’s domestic security forces are also on alert for protests against Japan after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine that honors wartime leaders last week. A vehicle from the People’s Armed Police and about a dozen other police cars and vans were parked around the Japanese Embassy in northeast Beijing yesterday. Uniformed police patrolled the area and a barricade was in place across the entrance.
The two nations are locked in a dispute over the ownership of islands in the East China Sea.
While the party has issued a circular before the New Year holidays for at least the last three years urging officials to be frugal and refrain from accepting gifts, the document has taken on added significance since Xi Jinping took over as party chief in November 2012. Xi, who also became the country’s president in March, started a campaign to rein in lavish spending, curb waste and crack down on official corruption.
To emphasize the government’s commitment to frugality, a casually dressed Xi was photographed yesterday queuing up to order and pay for his own meal at a branch of the Qingfeng Steamed Dumpling restaurant chain in Beijing. He chatted with fellow diners as he tucked in to a plate of green vegetables, steamed dumplings and a soup of stewed pig livers and intestines known as chaogan, according to photographs posted on the Xinhua website. His order cost 21 yuan ($3.46), according to a report on the Beijing News website.
Xi’s campaign and his crackdown on corruption has hit sales of luxury goods and business at high-end restaurants and hotels. China’s luxury spending grew about 2 percent this year, the slowest pace since at least 2000, according to estimates from consultant Bain & Co. published earlier this month.
Shop and restaurant sales during last year’s week-long Lunar New Year festival, which fell in February, rose at the slowest pace in four years as Xi’s campaign limited outlays on food and drink. This year’s holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, begins on Jan. 31.
Officials must “stay clean by refraining from accepting gifts, money, securities, pre-paid commercial cards, as well as gambling,” according to the circular, Xinhua reported.
Tea parties and evening galas should be reduced and simplified, and officials are banned from using public funds for gift giving, expensive recreational or body-building activities, New Year cards, fireworks, liquor, flower, food, trips not related to official activities, and handing out unnecessary bonuses.
In a separate circular, the party’s discipline watchdog vowed to name and shame officials who violate the rules, Xinhua reported on Dec. 27.