BEIJING, Dec 2 (Reuters) - China has punished almost 20,000 officials in the last year for breaching rules to cut down on bureaucracy as well as pomp and ceremony, the government said on Monday.

President Xi Jinping ordered the crackdown late last year when he became head of the ruling Communist Party, seeking to assuage public anger at waste and extravagance, particularly officials seen abusing their position to illegally amass wealth.

Xi demanded meetings be shortened, over-the-top welcoming ceremonies ditched and wordy, meaningless speeches be abandoned, as he sought to cut red tape and make the country's bureaucracy more efficient and less prone to graft.

The party's anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said the officials found breaching these rules had mostly been given administrative or internal party punishments. It did not give details.

More than 5,000 officials were found to have breached rules connected to the use of official cars, while 903 were guilty of organising overly elaborate celebratory events, the watchdog said in a statement on its website.

Others were singled out for being "mediocre" or "indolent", the statement said.

Xi has said that endemic corruption threatens the party's very survival and has vowed to go after high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies". (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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  • Chinese paramilitary police officers march during the flag-lowering ceremony in front of the Tiananmen Gate on March 2, 2013 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

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