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Extreme austerity at Beijing conclave

Pack your own toothbrush. That’s an order. Military officials descending on China’s capital for the country’s biggest political event have been told to bring their own toiletries.
By HT Correspondent | AP, Beijing
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2013 11:39 PM IST

Pack your own toothbrush. That’s an order.

Military officials descending on China’s capital for the country’s biggest political event have been told to bring their own toiletries.

Legislative delegates arriving at the airport no longer find welcoming teams of photogenic, waving women, and police aren’t clearing their way through Beijing’s traffic snarl.

Once feted with banquets of lobster and sharks’ fin, the delegates now serve themselves at drab buffets, and stay in guesthouses instead of luxury hotels.

China’s new leader Xi Jinping has declared a ban on official extravagance, and that has banished some of the usual pomp from this year’s gathering of the National People’s Congress.

“There’s basically no more meat for breakfast now. We’re eating at buffets as if we’re travelling with an ordinary travel agency that has put us up in a hotel with no star grading,” said Han Deyun, a lawyer from the southwestern megacity of Chongqing who has been a congress delegate for 11 years. “Lunch and dinners are also simpler, four or five hot dishes, but no seafood.”

Wednesday’s lunch offerings for the Beijing delegation featured the relatively mundane egg drop soup, boiled corn, stir fried bokchoy and sticky rice with pork.

Widespread corruption and the lavish lifestyles of officials — who often drive luxury cars, own multiple villas and send their children to elite foreign universities — have become the biggest sources of public anger at the ruling Communist Party.

They serve as a stark reminder of the unfairness of a system that’s enabled a small fraction of people with high-level political connections to accrue massive wealth.

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