In Hong Kong, signs telling people how to behave, where to look and when to do it are so commonplace they have become the pervasive subject of local humor. After a new set of laws emerged out of Yunnan last week — ones that seem to strike at the heart of local tradition — our beloved province South of the Clouds appears in for its own round of sarcastic barbs.
The Yunnan Commission for Discipline and Inspection (YCDI) promulgated the new set of statutes on March 12 in an effort to limit extravagance at the "grassroots" level. Specifically, the rules determine how government officials and workers in state-owned enterprises living in "rural areas" can conduct ceremonial dinners and celebrations. The raft of regulations limits the size of funeral and wedding feasts to 200 guests or less, which, in accordance with Chinese banquet seating traditions, means 20 tables or fewer.
Those tables are also a point of contention. The law now states that each table may be served "no more than 12 total dishes" and that of those dishes, six or fewer can contain meat. The bill for each table, continues the mandate, may not exceed 200 yuan.
Furthermore, alcohol and tobacco expenses "must not exceed 30 percent" of a given table's total cost, while the red envelopes full of cash typically gifted at such festivities may not contain more than 100 yuan. Other gifts must also fall below this price threshold, and wedding-related celebrations may only be held once.
Not finished with the buzz-kill, the law continues. For other traditional gatherings — including but not limited to those associated with graduations, birthdays, house-warmings, retirements, new jobs, harvests and military enlistments — all attendees must be "direct relations only". For the grand finale, the (YCDI) regulations explain how such provisions will be enforced, namely through paperwork:
Rural functions such as weddings, funerals and other activities must be publicly registered. Marriages must be reported ten days in advance, with a full accounting of the reason, time, location, scale, standards, et cetera. Such reports certify that organizers will comply with all relevant regulations. Funerals can be reported up to ten days after the event.
News stories related to the "rural activities" law have spread like wildfire across Chinese social media, especially here in Yunnan. The forwarded WeChat notice GoKunming received currently has 49,000 views and hundreds of sarcastic and derisive remarks. One example typical to the comments section was, "I have my own money. I'll give whatever amount I want as a gift. It's none of your business." On the opposite side, one user wrote, "I agree with this. Last year I attended more than 40 parties and gifted 20,000 yuan."
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