2020-10-09 10:07:54

Grabbing after-work drinks with colleagues is no longer an option for China’s public sector employees — at least in some parts of the country.

Qingcheng County in the northwestern Gansu province is the latest locality in China to ban weekday alcohol consumption by government officials and employees of state-owned enterprises, domestic media reported Thursday. The rule was first announced in July in a bid to prohibit public officials from “inappropriate alcohol consumption” not only during official events but also on weekdays after work.

In China, a national alcohol ban at government offices and state-sponsored events has been in effect since 2013, though it only applies to “high-grade liquor.” Several provincial-level governments — including Guizhou, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, and Xinjiang — have introduced their own additional prohibitions in recent years.

Online, some are saying that the Qingcheng County ban is “reasonable,” given that government officials may need to be available and in full control of their faculties in an emergency. Others, meanwhile, are questioning whether employers should have such control over the personal lives of their workers.

Zhang Youde, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told Sixth Tone the expanded alcohol bans undermine individual rights in the name of patriotism, and that such measures have no legal basis.

“The policy is a really bad sign,” Zhang said. “Many government offices tend to forget that there is a line between work and personal time, and that line should not be blurred.”

Shanghai-based lawyer Ding Jinkun agreed that the authorities have no right to govern employees’ drinking habits outside of their regular work shifts, with a few exceptions.

“There could be some restrictions if drinking affects one’s ability to work,” he told Sixth Tone.

This year, several cities have introduced zero-tolerance policies on after-work drinks for public sector employees. They include Nanyang in the central Henan province, Nanjing in the eastern Jiangsu province, Menyuan Hui Autonomous County in the northwestern Qinghai province, and Hu’an County in Gansu.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)