In recent years, mainland China’s economy has faced a decline, coupled with a troubled real estate market, leading to local financial constraints.

A Shanxi merchant sold 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) of substandard celery and was fined 66,000 yuan, ($9,500) causing heated discussions on the internet. A large number of netizens questioned whether the local government was in such financial trouble that they couldn’t wait to “cut the chives,” a Chinese idiom that basically means to rip off or financially exploit people. 

According to CCTV, the couple, surnamed Luo, operate a store in Yulin, Shanxi province. In October last year, they purchased nearly 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds) of celery for their store. The Local Market Supervision Bureau took out 1 kg to sample. A month later, the couple received an inspection report that the celery tested did not meet the standard.

Luo said he was then asked to provide the receipt for investigation, but at that time he couldn’t find it. Of the 3.5 kg of celery involved in the incident, setting aside the 1 kg sample, the remaining 2.5 kg were sold by the couple for 8 yuan/kg.

According to the decision by the Local Market Supervision Bureau, Luo and his wife were charged with violating relevant provisions of the Food Safety Law and fined 66,000 yuan (equivalent to more than $9,500) because they couldn’t provide the invoice issued by the buyer resulting in the failure to verify the origin of goods and fulfill the obligation to check the quality; moreover, the celery has been sold and there is no information on the buyer. 

Another store owner said that she said the system was flawed, “but shouldn’t be punished like that, how many tons of celery must be sold to earn more than 60,000 yuan? “

After the incident was reported, the inspection team of the State Council of China discovered that, from 2021, the Market Supervision Bureau of Yulin City, Shanxi province has detailed regulations on more than 50 administrative fines on food, for small traders. There are 21 cases with fines of more than 50,000 yuan, while the value of the products in their case file worth only tens or hundreds of yuan.

The incident caused heated discussions online. Sound of Hope cited some netizens’ comments:

“One person wrote, I don’t know how many times this incident has been reported before it was seriously investigated. Let’s financially punish the seller 1,000 times of what they should actually be – this is the people’s government. This is really enough.”

The government has begun to make money by sanctioning their people. We wish everyone the best luck in taking care of themselves then.

Another complained, “Really I am at a loss for words, it’s not easy to make money nowadays, selling vegetables is just a small business, enough to make a living, every time the fine is up to 60,000 yuan, you want to corner the people responsible.”

In recent years, many parts of China have faced the pressure of a declining economy. Some local governments take advantage of fines to generate income, and some even rank and evaluate fines as a local indicator.

In August, a Zhengzhou traffic police, within 20 days, issued 740,000 “Notice of motor vehicles illegal parking” with a total fine of 148 million yuan ($21.5 million), on average, each person is fined about 200 yuan.

In addition to fines, some local governments have specifically sold franchises, highlighting the local financial crisis.

In July, Langzhong City, Sichuan, held a public bidding to select the vendor for canteens that serve 100,000 people at administrative units and schools across the city with a total franchise period of 30 years. The offer was 180 million yuan, but due to public opinion, it was suspended.

Previously, Nanchuan District, Chongqing, franchised for 28 years for 7,876 street parking spaces; Shifang city, Sichuan, franchise more than 10,000 parking spaces for 380 million yuan ($55 million); Xishui County, Guizhou has franchised several advertising agencies for the next 20 years for more than 100 million yuan.

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