Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Phoren Trips by Politicians (not only desis)

Straits Times
Feb 23, 2009
Caught on video

BEIJING - CHINA has sacked a senior official for misconduct after Internet users uploaded a video of a government delegation enjoying a tour of the Pyramids in Egypt on a public-funded 'study' trip, local media said on Monday.

Overseas 'study' trips have long been a perk enjoyed by Chinese bureaucrats, with travel itineraries often skewed more towards pleasure than business.

Internet-led witch-hunts by Chinese surfers, known as 'human flesh search engines', have gleefully exposed a string of officials enjoying excessive leisure time on the public purse, leading to media storms and sackings.

A post titled 'Overseas study or overseas travel?' spread across Chinese portals in recent days shows a video of 13 public servants from Zhaoqing, a city in southern Guangdong province, living it up on a 14-day tour to Africa and the Middle East in 2007.

Apart from taking in the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, the 17-minute video posted on one blog on major Chinese webportal Sina.com (http: vhead.blog.sina.com.cn/player/outertplayer.swf?auto=1&vid=18827101&uid=1267084551) shows them touring Table Mountain in Capetown, riding jeeps in the desert, and visiting an ostrich farm.

One scene shows officials laughing and dancing with models on a cat-walk in Istanbul. Another shows them touring Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab hotel.

Narrated by unseen male and female narrators and sometimes accompanied by hip-hop music, the video appears to be specially edited to package the officials' holiday memories.

The delegation, led by a Communist Party official in Duanzhou district, also includes officials of the local government's finance and legal affairs bureaux and 'discipline and inspection' office, the department responsible for checks and balances.

Each of the officials' titles appears in the video, but the names are obscured by red. It was unclear how the video came to circulate on the Internet. The city's disciplinary office had confirmed the trip had been funded by public money and sacked Duanzhou's deputy Communist Party secretary, a report by the Guangzhou Daily posted on Sina.com (www.sina.com.cn) said.

Other officials were under investigation and had been ordered to pay back the money for trip, which amounted to some 450,000 yuan (S$100,000), the report said. -- REUTERS

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