Updated: 03/04/2014 15:14 | By Agence France-Presse

Banquet ban for China officials amid corruption concern

China has banned delegates to its annual rubber-stamp parliament from holding banquets, an official said Tuesday as the government tries to improve its image following regular corruption scandals.

Banquet ban for China officials amid corruption concern

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) stands in silent tribute to Kunming attack victims during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2014 - by Wang Zhao

Delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC), which meets to formally approve policies decided by the ruling Communist party, are also barred from exchanging gifts and will no longer be served "expensive food, wine, and beverages" at their buffet meals, Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying told a press conference. 

China's leaders have stressed austerity as they try to rein in extravagant feasts and luxury spending, with President Xi Jinping vowing to crack down on endemic corruption among high- and low-ranking officials. 

Several senior personnel have been ousted on corruption charges in recent years, while regular reports of low-level malfeasance are a major source of popular discontent with the authorities.

Xi's calls for austerity have reportedly affected high-end restaurants and caused a slowdown in sales of luxury goods, but critics say that without deeper reforms China will not be able to tackle more serious forms of graft.

At the same time China has cracked down on activists who demanded legal reforms which would require officials to disclose their financial assets, with one activist jailed for four years in January. 

At the annual congress Prime Minister Li Keqiang will deliver a work report which is expected to touch on official corruption, environmental problems including hazardous smog, economic reforms and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. 

It will be closely watched for the announcement of the annual economic growth target -- given at 7.5 percent for last year -- a figure which analysts follow for insight into the leadership's thinking about the economy's performance. 

The announcement of the annual official defence budget -- which has seen double-digit increases for decades -- will also be prominent. 

At the press conference ahead of the NPC, spokeswoman Fu said it was likely to pass a revision to an environmental law aimed at tackling chronic pollution, but did not give details.

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