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Chinese officials allegedly feasted on an endangered giant salamander

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Journalists say they were attacked after trying to photograph the incident

Muzina_Shanghai / Flickr

Chinese officials have come under fire for allegedly eating an endangered giant salamander and attacking journalists who saw them do it. According to China's Global Times newspaper, the incident occurred during a 28-person banquet at a Shenzhen restaurant last week that was attended by several senior police officials. Three journalists from the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper attended the dinner undercover and reported that another attendee brought two cases of yellow wine and a giant salamander, which he said was bred in captivity.

The giant salamander is listed as a "critically endangered" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and its population has declined dramatically in recent decades, largely due to human consumption. Some practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe the amphibian has therapeutic properties, though there is no evidence to support their claims. Last year, the Chinese government outlawed the consumption of 420 endangered species, many of which are valued not only for their purported health benefits but as status symbols.

"In my territory, it is my treat."

"[I]n my territory, it is my treat," one attendee reportedly said of the salamander at Wednesday's banquet. "I chose this because it is unique while it is under my control … And it is safe here."

The three journalists say their identities were revealed after they were seen taking photographs. The attendees, they claim, reacted violently, kicking and slapping one man and robbing another of his cellphone. The photographer was choked and beaten and had his camera smashed. The Metropolis Daily reports that the dinner cost more than $1,000 (not including the wine), reviving questions over the kind of extravagance that President Xi Jinping has sought to curb among public officials. Officials say they've launched an investigation into last week's banquet and have suspended 14 police officers.