A microblog posting from the Canadian Embassy to China Wednesday has sparked an extensive online discussion about Chinese officials' misuse of government cars.
Canadian Ambassador David Mulroney posted a picture of the Toyota Camry Hybrid he uses, and said that government cars are rarely seen in Canada.
"Only Minister or Deputy Minister-level officials have government-authorized vehicles in Canada," he said in the Sina Weibo post, explaining there are certain requirements for executive vehicles.
For example, they should be gasoline-electric hybrids or low emission vehicles. Maximum price limits are CAD $27,000 ($26,711) for Deputy Ministers and eligible senior officials, and CAD $32,400 for Ministers, Ministers of State and Secretaries of State, according to the Canadian government's Directive on Fleet Management.
The entry received around 900 comments and 2,500 reposts by yesterday evening. Many Web users approved of the Canadian government's rules on official car use, saying it is better than China, where a village official can use an Audi or a Bentley.
"I provided the information because we get a lot of questions about how we operate at the embassy, what rules govern our work, and how much money we spend. This information is all readily available to Canadians who ask," said Ambassador Mulroney in an e-mail reply to the Global Times yesterday.
As to the criticism of Chinese officials' vehicle misuse, he said: "I have to answer to Canadian expectations. What happens to China is for Chinese people to decide."
The current price of a Camry Hybrid is approximately CAD $27,000 (169,000 yuan) in Canada, he noted.
In Beijing, the price of a Toyota Camry ranges from around 270,000 to 370,000 yuan, according to BitAuto.com.
There were 62,026 government vehicles in Beijing at the end of 2010, including those authorized to Party and government organizations, the municipal bureau of finance released on March 31. Many doubted that number, and a CCTV program on November 3 last year revealed the city has approximately 700,000 government vehicles.
"Government vehicle issue in China is a mess, and our government is the most unwilling in the world to talk about it," said Ye Qing, a National People's Congress deputy known for his studies into the matter.
Although China's regulations on official cars stipulates only officials that are deputy minister-level and above are entitled to a car, officials below that level can have a vehicle for "working use," which leads many officials to misuse these vehicles full-time as their own, Ye said.
"I really appreciate the ambassador's attitude and their government's transparency," he said, but the Camry Hybrid the ambassador drives would cost 80,000 to 100,000 yuan higher in China, Ye remarked.