Widespread outrage was triggered last month by images of Yang Dacai, head of the Shaanxi provincial work safety administration, smiling broadly at the scene of a collision between a bus and a methanol tanker that killed 36 people.
Incensed web users soon dug up photographs of Yang wearing 11 expensive-looking watches – five of which were together worth more than 300,000 yuan ($48,000), the China Daily newspaper quoted an expert as saying.
The Communist party’s provincial discipline inspection commission said in a statement he was dismissed for his “inappropriate ‘smiling face’ behaviour” and for “wearing many brand-name watches”.
Yang is the latest government official brought down by a scandal going viral online, as authorities seek to contain popular anger at perceived expensive tastes and corruption among public servants.
In a comment he posted on his own microblog, Yang said he had been trying to help junior staff relax and “maybe, in an unguarded moment, I got a little too relaxed myself”.
Yang faces further investigation for possible “other discipline violations” uncovered during the inquiry, the discipline inspection commission said.