BEIJING (AFP) – First went the fancy banquets, then the lavish gift-giving. Now, China’s ruling Communist Party has set its sights on a new target in its anti-corruption drive: art and literary prizes.
China’s proliferation of cultural awards has raised alarm among the party’s much feared anti-corruption investigators, who worry that government officials are using them as a means of improving their clout, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
At a meeting Monday in Changsha – the capital of Hunan, Communist China’s founding father Mao Zedong’s home province – culture ministry officials vowed to “strictly prohibit the obtaining of illegitimate benefits in the name of art,” Xinhua reported.
“The ministry of culture will carry out a comprehensive rectification of literary and art awards,” Xinhua said. “A number of awards will be canceled or streamlined, with an overall reduction of more than 60 percent.”
“Literature and art awards programs during festivals will be canceled, and criticism will be strengthened,” it added, saying the ministry will “guard against and eliminate all kinds of unhealthy tendencies.
“ China’s art and cultural spheres have come under increasing scrutiny from Communist Party investigators under President Xi Jinping seeking to crack down on corruption at all levels.
In January, the party’s internal Central Commission for Discipline Inspection urged officials not to seek senior positions in provincial art and calligraphy associations, warning that cadres that do so are “stealing the meat off artists’ plates.”
“In some places, you will see dozens of vice presidents sitting atop the provincial calligraphy association,” the CCDI wrote in a notice at the time. “What kind of behind-the-scenes profit is motivating officials to use their authority to grab literary laurels?”
Officials in China have at times sought to use calligraphy as a way of hiding bribes, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.
Last year, Jiang Guoxing, deputy head of the press and publication bureau in Jiangsu province, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for accepting 1.85 million yuan ($300,000) in bribes, some of which were disguised as payment for his calligraphy “masterpieces,” the paper reported.
One work of four “scribbled” characters – which Jiang sold to a businessman for 50,000 yuan – was later deemed worthless by authorities, the China Daily reported.