Beijing (AFP) – Chinese officials feasted on a critically endangered giant salamander and turned violent when journalists photographed the luxury banquet, according to media reports Tuesday on the event which appeared to flout Beijing’s austerity campaign.
The 28 diners included senior police officials from the southern city of Shenzhen, the Global Times said. The Chinese say they are yummy. They are also protected….
“In my territory, it is my treat,” it quoted a man in the room as saying.
The giant salamander is believed by some Chinese to have anti-ageing properties, but there is no orthodox evidence to back the claim.
The species is classed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, which says the population has “declined catastrophically over the last 30 years”.
“Commercial over-exploitation for human consumption is the main threat to this species,” the IUCN said.
The Global Times cited the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, which said its journalists were beaten up when their identities were discovered by the diners.
One was kicked and slapped, another had his mobile phone forcibly taken, while the photographer was choked, beaten up and had his camera smashed, the reports said.
A total of 14 police have been suspended and an investigation launched into the incident, added the Global Times.
One of the Shenzhen diners provided the salamander and said it had been captive-bred, according to the report.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a much-publicised austerity drive for the ruling classes, including a campaign for simple meals with the catchphrase “four dishes and one soup”.
The ruling Communist Party also says it is cracking down on the consumption of endangered species, including shark’s fin.
China’s legislature last April approved a law including prison sentences for people caught eating rare wild animals.
The Chinese government considers 420 wild animal species as rare or endangered, state media previously said.
Bird’s nest soup
Talking about some rare delicacies, have you tasted the bird’s nest soup? This rare soup features among the most desirable delicacies in Asia. The gelatinous mixture of the soup looks very simple and it rests on a chicken broth. However, when you look at the contents of the soup closely, you may not find it to be as simple as it looks.
The main ingredient in this delicacy is actually bird’s nest. The nest is not comprised of leaves and twigs, as you would imagine, but it is small swiftlet’s nest, made of saliva mainly. A male swiftlet builds the entire nest in just thirty-five days to make place for about two eggs in the shallow structure.
The nests are removed after the swiftlets are able to raise their young. The nests are found in native caves, which make it quite difficult for climbers to get them.
Communist Party officials are paying the price for their extravagant and sometimes illegal gastronomic tastes
Fourteen Chinese police officers have been suspended after three undercover journalists were assaulted while trying to expose an underground salamander feast at which Communist Party officials were washing the endangered species down with cases of rice wine.
The banquet took place last Wednesday in the southern factory boomtown of Shenzhen. At least 28 people, including several senior government officials, were present. One giant salamander – a critically endangered amphibian long considered a delicacy in China – was on the menu.
However, what had promised to be a routine night of over-indulgence descended into fisticuffs when diners realised their 6,352 yuan (£672.80) salamander-eating session had been infiltrated by reporters from the Southern Metropolis Daily tabloid.
Violence ensued as the officials and their security guards set upon their unwelcome guests, the state-run Global Times claimed.
“One of [the journalists] was kicked and slapped while another was robbed of his cell phone, leaving his hands bleeding,” the newspaper reported. “The photographer was choked and beaten up, while his camera was smashed.”
On Monday, 14 public security officials were suspended pending an investigation into the incident.
The Shenzhen salamander feast is the second culinary calamity involving government officials to hit Chinese headlines this month.
There was outrage in mid-January after an influential Chinese magazine claimed that hours before 36 people lost their lives in a New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai, senior officials had been feasting on sushi at a nearby restaurant where meals cost up to £413-a-head.
The restaurant, which is in a luxury shopping mall opposite Shanghai’s five-star Peninsula hotel, is reputedly popular among Communist Party highfliers with a penchant for “Japan’s most extravagant cuisine”.
“Shanghai officials often come down to eat,” one member of staff told the Caixin magazine.
Zhou Wei and Peng Song, two of the officials at the controversial New Year’s Eve dinner, were last week sacked for breaking Communist Party “frugality rules”.
Tags: austerity campaign, banquet, bird's nest soup, China, Chinese Communist Party, Communist Party, conservation, corruption, delicacies in Asia, delicacy, eating rare wild animals, endangered giant salamander, endangered species, free media, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, Global Times, Guangzhou, human rights, International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, luxury, luxury banquet, poaching, salamander, senior police officials, shark fin's soup, Shenzhen, Xi Jinping