2017-02-24 11:58:48

For high-ranking cadres in one county in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, holding a mahjong tile could put their careers in jeopardy.

The Party committee of Ningdu County issued a notice on Feb. 17 saying that leading officials, including the Party secretary and the county government head, are banned from playing mahjong at any time, on any occasion, and in any form — even at home with no money involved.

In mahjong, players — usually four — draw and discard tiles until they have a winning combination.

A separate notice issued Wednesday by the Ningdu County task force responsible for work style improvements said that lower-level officials, Party cadres, and civil servents can also get in trouble if they are found to have played mahjong for money. Gambling is illegal in China, and officials found to be in violation of the regulation can expect to lose their positions and be prosecuted, it said.

The task force also asked the public to report Ningdu officials who had been seen gambling. As of Friday, it had received several tips, a member of the task force surnamed Li, who answered phone calls from the informants, told Sixth Tone on Friday. Li declined to give his full name, as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

“We will refer the tips to other departments for verification,” Li said, adding that local police would convertly investigate any promising leads.

The crackdown on gambling in Ningdu follows a similar campaign from two years prior. In September 2014, the county launched a four-month clampdown aimed at Party cadres who gambled.

But Liao Hongpeng, an official working at the Ningdu Party committee’s publicity department, rejected the idea that local officialdom is overrun with gamblers. “The county issued these notices because the same actions are being taken all over the province,” said Liao, who declined to comment further.

Ningdu’s crackdown has also been met with disagreement from state news agency Xinhua’s online branch. On its public account on messaging app WeChat, the news agency wrote on Friday that the blanket mahjong ban for high-ranking officials “is too rigid, in practice making it difficult to be implemented over a long period of time.”

(Header image: People play mahjong at home in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, Dec. 7, 2014. Ye Yuan/VCG)