China: Top officials' festive dinners go on sale

Boxes on a table Image copyright Diaoyutai / Tmall
Image caption People in China can now savour meals previously only available to top officials

Meals usually reserved for top state officials in China have now been made available to the general public.

The historic Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing normally entertains visiting foreign dignitaries and provincial officials with lavish banquets, but has now taken its services online to offer sumptuous meals to ordinary Chinese.

They are sold via Tmall, an online retail website, in time for traditional family dinners during Chinese New Year. Because it is celebrated on 8 February in 2016, customers can have the meals delivered at any time between 20 January and 20 February.

Two sets of meals are available at the moment, each comprising several traditional delicacies such as "Buddha jumps over the wall" (shark fin soup with quail eggs) and "lion's head" (pork meatballs stewed with vegetables).

China Daily, a state-run newspaper, says the banquets are only available in Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin because "some assembly" is required and meals have to be delivered to the customer's door.

This luxury does not come cheap: the two sets are priced at 3,480 yuan (£360, $537) and 3,980 yuan (£412, $614).

The expensive meals have gone on sale at a time when the Communist authorities are clamping down on lavish spending by officials. One director of a state-run company in Tianjin has reportedly been expelled from the party and is facing trial after spending an equivalent of more than €10,000 (£7,337, $10,924) on a single meal at a restaurant.

Image copyright Diaoyutai / T-Mall
Image caption The Diaoyutai State Guesthouse says its meals are "in strict accordance with the legendary standards" of former Premier Zhou Enlai

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