Communist Party officials in China will have to forego shark fin and bird’s nest soup at official banquets, following a new directive from the Central Committee and State Council governing bodies. Beijing’s ban of these controversial delicacies comes as part of a larger crackdown on corruption and excessive spending, championed by President Xi Jinping.
The order also bars wild animal products and imposes strict guidelines for business travel and local receptions.
“Officials on business tours should arrange their own meals according to relevant expenditure standards and the local hosts are allowed to provide only one reception dinner if needed,” it said, according to Xinhua.
Lower-ranking officials below the provincial level will no longer be able to rent hotel suites while on business trips and hosts are forbidden from giving cash, securities or local souvenirs as gifts.
Free cigarettes and high-end liquors will also be removed from Party banquets.
Xi has led the march against Party extravagance. Since coming to power last March, more than 17,000 officials have been punished for disobeying frugality guidelines.
“Chinese officials have long held lavish liquor-drenched receptions as a way of building business relationships, greasing the wheels of power, and showing off wealth and status,” wrote The South China Morning Post. “The new rules are intended to … oppose extravagance and enhance the anti-corruption efforts among party and governmental authorities.”
The ban on shark fin soup, specifically, follows an overall decline in its popularity among ordinary Chinese. Advocacy groups have worked tirelessly to educate consumers about the environmental impacts of finning as several shark species face the possibility of extinction.
“[Shark fin soup] became so popular that 10 of the 14 species of oceanic sharks most commonly fished for their fins are at ‘very high’ or ‘high’ risk of extinction – including iconic species like the Great Hammerhead – and the other four are approaching that status,” said The Independent. “Now, eating [it] is no longer fashionable.”
The Independent added that, although 70 million sharks were killed last year, consumption of shark fin soup in China is down by 50 to 70 percent since 2011.
NBA superstar Yao Ming was one of the driving forces behind awareness campaigns. Grassroots protests against the dish caught Beijing’s attention last year – the official ban keeps a promise made by the Chinese government last July that shark fin soup would be phased out within three years.
Hong Kong banned shark fin soup at official functions in September. The Shangri-La hotel group and Cathay Pacific airlines have also stopped serving the dish to customers.
For a deeper look at the shark finning industry, please read Jonathan DeHart’s extensive September feature here.