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Official's death highlights China's drinking culture: state media

world Updated: Jul 20, 2009 12:01 IST

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One Chinese official is dead and another in a coma in a pair of cases highlighting the risks of China's culture of drinking heavily to seal political or business deals, state media said on Monday.

Jin Guoqing, a district water resources chief in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, died last week of a heart attack after drinking excessively while entertaining official guests, Xinhua news agency said.

Also last week, Lu Yanpeng, a district chief in Zhanjiang city in southern Guangdong province, fell into a coma after drinking heavily during a dinner with a Communist Party official, it said.

They were just the latest casualties in a booze-soaked culture in which officials and businessmen are expected to ply guests with strong Chinese liquor at elaborate banquets amid cries of "gan bei," or "drain the glass."

Xinhua quoted an official in eastern Shandong province, who asked to remain anonymous, saying officials would "lose face" if they do not get guests drunk.

"Neither my guests nor I want to get drunk but we have to play under the unspoken rule, which has been around for so long. We don't know how to do business otherwise," the official said.

Some officials and business executives specifically hire secretaries who are able to drink heavily so that they can bear some of the load, the report said.

Amid growing outrage in China over the flamboyant lifestyles of some government and Communist Party leaders, a number of Chinese cities have in recent years banned such binge drinking at lunchtime.

Xinhua said about 500 billion yuan (73 billion dollars) in public funds is spent each year on official banquets, nearly one-third of the nation's spending on dining out.