A former railway official in China's central Hunan Province has been prosecuted for collaborating with ticket touts and making undeserved money.
Luo Zhongxing, a former railway station manager in Huaihua City, was suspected of using his power to reserve tickets for illegal scalpers.
A train ticket during the Lunar New Year holiday rush has for years proven a hot commodity in China. Scalpers, some of whom have special connections within the railway system, often buy up tickets that they re-sell for great profit.
Across China, the worst winter storm in five decades has prompted governments to fight profiteering and maintain market order.
In the worst-hit Hunan Province, the local price bureau on Sunday issued an order demanding restaurants to keep their profit margins within 60 percent after it received complaints of price increases.
On Friday, the price bureau in the neighboring Guangdong Province also imposed a ban on profiteering by hotels and inns along the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway, a key north-south trunk road.
The hotels and inns were told not to charge customers prices higher than those before Jan. 23 or they would face "severe punishment".
The bureau said the price ban would be stopped when the disaster ended.
In Jiangxi Province, a local telecom company promised not to stop services to mobile phone users who were in default of fees, so as not to cause trouble to the disaster relief work.
A restaurant in the southwest Guizhou Province was fined 50,000 yuan (about 7,000 U.S. dollars) on Saturday over an unauthorized price increase of one yuan for each serving of noodles.
The restaurant, located in downtown Guiyang, capital of the mountainous province that has suffered snow, sleet and subsequent power and water shortages over the past three weeks, raised its noodle price to seven yuan without approval of the local price bureau.
"The local price regulations ban businesses from raising prices in times of natural disasters," said Bi Jin, an official in charge of market supervision at the city's price bureau.
The winter weather crisis has hit 19 areas and driven up costs of food, cooking oil, fuel and other necessities. The worst is still not over, the Central Meteorological Station said on Saturday.
As bad weather threatens to last into the Year of the Rat, the price bureau in eastern Zhejiang Province said it had dismissed several supermarket requests for price increases.
"We insist that prices for milk and instant noodles should remain stable now and during the Chinese New Year holiday," bureau head Wang Jiahui said.
He forecast price increases for most vegetables starting on Sunday as several greenhouses had collapsed under the weight of the snow and ice.
An unprecedented snowfall starting on Saturday left an average of 30 centimeters of snow in most parts of the province. In some areas, the snow was 60 cm deep.
At least 70 restaurants in Xi'an, capital of the northwestern Shaanxi Province, vowed on Saturday they would not raise prices for food, beverages and service during the weeklong holiday starting on Wednesday.
The promise was well received by residents, many of whom were planning to dine out during the holiday.
(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)