SHENZEN, China - They feasted on a critically endangered giant salamander and turned violent when journalists photographed the luxury banquet, media reports said yesterday.
The event, which appeared to flout Beijing's austerity campaign, had 28 diners, including senior police officials from the southern city of Shenzhen, the Global Times said.
"In my territory, it is my treat," it quoted a man in the room as saying.
The Global Times cited the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, which said its journalists were beaten up when their identities were discovered by the diners.
One was kicked and slapped, another had his mobile phone forcibly taken, while the photographer was choked, beaten up and had his camera smashed, the reports said.
A total of 14 police officials have been suspended and an investigation into the incident has been launched, said the Global Times.
One of the Shenzhen diners provided the salamander, and said it had been captive-bred, according to the report.
The giant salamander is believed by some Chinese to have anti-ageing properties, but there is no orthodox evidence to back the claim.
The species is classed as "critically endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
It said the population has "declined catastrophically over the last 30 years", AFP reported.
"Commercial over-exploitation for human consumption is the main threat to this species," the IUCN said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a much-publicised austerity drive for the ruling classes two years ago, including a campaign for simple meals with the catchphrase "four dishes and one soup".
The ruling Communist Party also says it is cracking down on the consumption of endangered species, including shark's fin.
Last April, China's legislature approved a law including prison sentences for people caught eating rare wild animals.
This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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