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Officials face punishment over fatal accidents
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-16 06:10

Punishment can be extended to provincial, municipal Party and government chiefs when fatal accidents due to safety lapses occur, a watchdog announced yesterday.

Currently, only deputy governors or mayors in charge of work safety can be held accountable for major disasters.

A spokesman with the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said the country has been preparing legislation to make provincial and local top chiefs shoulder more responsibilities in realizing "safe development" in China.

Top Party chiefs at provincial and local levels should also share the same burden of responsibility to improve China's grave work safety record in the coming years, said the spokesman.

Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute, told China Daily that a string of fatal major accidents last year have hardened the determination among the highest leadership to broaden the accountability systems for officials.

Last year, four vice-governors received disciplinary penalties for coal mine accidents. But governors and Party chiefs escaped punishment.

With four major coal mine accidents killing more than 100 miners each, 2005 was a black year in China's work safety record. Previously there had been 22 mining accidents of a similar size in China since 1949.

"The tightened system is expected to change the officials attitude of emphasizing economic development but ignoring the value of human lives," Huang said.

In the coming years, China is to take the fatality rate per 100 million yuan (US$12.3 million) of GDP and per 100,000 industrial workers as its standard for assessing social and economic development. But the figure of the fatality rate has not been released yet.

Huang said the awareness of top officials in China is vital to realize the central government's goal of work safety and development.

At a work safety discussion held last week, Huang's institute proposed a package of measures to prevent major mining accidents from happening by the end of 2007.

"SAWS is considering including the goals into the central government plan," said Huang.

And the administration also planned to massively reduce occurrences of major accidents that kill at least 10 workers during 2006 and 2007, said Huang.

The work safety watchdog yesterday also vowed to close another 35,800 factories or enterprises this year in which safety hazards are hidden.

Those on yesterday's blacklist include 8,053 non-coal mines, 2,500 enterprises producing chemicals and 25,000 construction companies.

(China Daily 02/16/2006 page2)

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