07/06/2012, 00.00
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No more shark fins at government receptions

Ban will come into effect three years from now. Some 70 million sharks are killed each year to satisfy those who like the delicacy. The government is trying to improve public ethics and cut spending. Government money is used to buy cigarettes and expensive alcoholic beverages. Each year, some US$ 31.5 billion are spent on meals and receptions.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China's Government Offices Administration of the State Council (GOASC) is to issue guidelines to ban serving shark fins at official receptions, instructing all levels of government agencies to stop serving the delicacy. Environmental groups are elated by the news because shark fishing has put some species at risk of extinction.

According to wild animal conservation organisation WildAid, at least 70 million sharks are slain annually for their fins. This has put at least 17 per cent of known species on the verge of extinction. Mainland China and Hong Kong are among the biggest importers of shark fin for years.

However, there is a catch. The new rules will come out within one to three years. For many animal rights groups, that is not good enough.

"Banning shark fin will take the State Council three years to decide?" asked one online commentator. "That's why it'll take another 300 years for China to launch democratic reform".

"Does the State Council mean public servants should spare no effort to eat shark fin within the coming three years, as their opportunities to eat it with public funds will be ended?" wondered another Web user.

The new government rules are not limited to shark fins but are aimed at the 200 billion yuan (US$ 31 billion) spent on meals by bureaucrats each year, enough to build another Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric plant in the world (600 sq km).

This is part of the Chinese government's effort at cutting expenditures, bloated by runaway bureaucratic costs. For example, back in March, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called for an end to public funds to buy cigarettes and expensive alcoholic beverages. (WZC)


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