China sacks official over lavish, three-day wedding

BEIJING Tue Oct 8, 2013 6:48am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China sacked an official for "extravagant waste" after he spent an estimated 1.6 million yuan ($260,000) on a lavish, three-day wedding for his son, state media said on Tuesday, the latest move in a crackdown on profligate lifestyles and graft.

Ma Linxiang, a deputy village chief from the Beijing suburb of Qingheying, hosted the estimated 250-table wedding at a convention center that was part of the main 2008 Beijing Olympics venue during the week-long National Day holiday last week, newspapers reported.

Ma told the Beijing News that the wedding was hosted by both families, and that he "couldn't stop" the bride's family from splurging on the venue as well as a troupe of performers that included two celebrities famous for their own lavish wedding.

A branch of the ruling Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog fired Ma for waste and discipline violations, adding that while it had not found any abuse of public funds, it was investigating, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Since taking charge of the Communist Party late last year and the reins of state in March, President Xi Jinping has called corruption a threat to the party's survival and vowed to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Xi has sought to address growing public anger at the illegal or unethical behavior of party officials, especially those with flamboyant lifestyles which they could not possibly afford on low government salaries.

Among the "tigers", ousted senior politician Bo Xilai was jailed for life last month after he was found guilty of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.

Ma said he only paid for the two days of festivities in his village that cost 200,000 yuan, and that he received a fraction of that back in gifts, the newspaper said.

Wedding guests are traditionally expected to give newly-weds red envelopes full of cash known as "hong bao", which are often used to defray the costs of the wedding, but can also be used to illegally funnel cash or as a channel for bribes.

Ma insisted he was well aware of Xi's anti-graft campaign.

"I'm a village official, I know all about the party's rules and what you should not do, but the bride's family insisted and I couldn't stop them," he told Xinhua.

He described the bride's family as wealthy business people from the eastern province of Jiangsu.

($1 = 6.1220 yuan)

(Reporting by Adam Rose and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Robert Birsel)

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