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Bureaucratic declaration limits Yunnan countryside fun

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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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i can see quiet a few people enjoying these new regs. less compulsion to have more face than the last local wedding, and you can cap cost without losing face. sounds like a winner to me

You're saying Chinese banquet seating tradition is 20 persons per table? If so, it seems I've never been to a banquet.

@alienew: Typo has been corrected. Thanks.

This kind of micromanaging is absurdly anal anyway, but note that, at 12 dishes per 10 people at a table and total bill for table not to exceed Y200, that means less than Y20 per guest.
This might not be too bad an idea in some "rural areas" - particularly poor ones - but it'll never fly. Not that I think it's a bad idea generally to slap fatcats upside the head.

The person, or more likely the group, who concocted this will be promoted out of harms way, the regulations will be ignored and forgotten. Better still, some media outlet could be forced to own up to a botched attempt at mimicking April Fools day.

I was at a rural funeral in Yunnan last autumn, and throughout the event there was a bookkeeper registering and writing down all donations.'

Back then I understood that the family had purchased the feast for a certain price, and this communal bookkeeper was subtracting the payment for that from all those donations.

But in light of this article, I wouldn't be surprised if he served some administrative role as well.

This regulation, as stated here, is for government officials and employees of state owned enterprises only. It has no bearing on normal people. While I'm personally ambivalent about the rules - it is definitely the government's continuing attempt to quell rampant, pervasive, and apparently generational corruption. That's a tough rodent or cockroach to control.

In most developed nations - they continuously make laws, mostly for people who don't obey laws, flagrantly circumvent laws, or even use laws for legalized corruption - this law however seems to have teeth - as flagrantly displaying wealth is a discipline violation. Un-flagrantly displaying wealth and influence is a separate matter.

For example - in the above case - the limit was allegedly 200 people - so the solution is simply to have 10 separate banquets - to host your village of 2,000 people. Other alternatives - sponsor large legally recognized celebrations (such as water splashing or fire festivals) and have your public banquet under those kinds of blanket covers.

For every law - there are always infinitely many ways to circumvent or abuse laws - been that way for aeons.

So support the government's attempts at anti-corruption or support corrupt government officials and corrupt employees of state owned enterprises. I detest corruption - so I favor the former, hope it works, but suspect it will merely drive the corruption underground and only capture the truly stupid.

As for the HongBao they can use Wechat instead of the standard real Red Envelope. :-) Just sayin'

Agree with michael: goal is fine, but measures proposed probably unenforceable. Not sure I could propose a better method, but methods that don't work simply makes the problem worse - cultural attitudes don't change according to somebody's policy, and if coercion is necessary, it's got to be effective and not just breed contempt for the enforcer.. .

There probably simple work around, BUT the numbers of people who have been disciplined so far (well over 100 000) and the range of sanctions being handed out means it is not worth the risk.

Some of the stories of government officials having to go out into the villages to sweep the streets suggest that a very tight rein is being used in certain quarters.

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