Communist party members at EY China in Beijing have been asked to wear their party badges to show their political loyalty while they are at work.
A Communist party branch committee at the company made the demand just ahead of China’s annual parliamentary meetings, a time of high political sensitivity in the country. The rubber-stamp legislature is expected to confirm Xi Jinping for a third term as president, and a new slate of top officials will be appointed.
The committee sent a message from its EY email account to all party members at the Big Four accounting firm’s Beijing office on February 23, according to two people who received the directive. A party branch needs to set up a committee at a company when the number of its members exceeds seven but is below 50.
Most of China’s 97mn Communist party members are supposed to wear their party pins at work, but observance is generally higher during politically sensitive times.
Xi has worked to reinvigorate and strengthen loyalty among the party’s vast membership since coming to power more than a decade ago. Early in his tenure, the party demanded members pay overdue fees, which for many amounted to thousands of renminbi, and weeded out those seen to lack dedication.
China’s state-owned groups in recent years have frequently demanded party members make their badge of loyalty visible. “Wearing the party badge is the obligation of every Communist party member,” the party’s bylaws say. “It helps to make visible their identities as party members, ensures they fulfil their party obligations and strengthens their party consciousness.”
In China, the yellow hammer and sickle over the words “serve the people” is an increasingly common sight on the chests of party-affiliated bank tellers, rail staff, pilots, police officers and medical workers.
EY China is one of the first known examples of a company with international affiliations asking its employees to do the same. “The badge should be placed in the middle of the left chest and cannot be worn on the collar,” said the EY directive. “When worn with other badges, it should be placed above them.”
The notice said the requirement was in line with a campaign from the party committee of Beijing’s accountants’ association, which had requested party members visibly identify themselves in the workplace. Similar party pin drives have been carried out at state-owned groups and private companies since Xi secured a third term as leader of the party in October.
Only EY’s staff in the Chinese capital appear to have received the directive. EY China did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
EY China is owned by the firm’s partners in the country, and its profits are not shared with EY’s international network of advisers and auditors. It is not part of the firm’s plans to split its consulting and audit businesses.
Additional reporting by Kaye Wiggins in Hong Kong