MAC: Mines and Communities

China to criminalize accident cover-ups

Published by MAC on 2006-04-27

China to criminalize accident cover-ups


27th April 2006

BEIJING - China plans to jail people who cover up deadly accidents for up to seven years, but some lawmakers say that is still too lenient in a country where many mine disasters go unreported, state media said on Thursday.

More than 3,300 coal mine blasts, floods and other accidents claimed nearly 6,000 lives in China last year. Many of these were blamed on mine owners who, spurred by soaring profits, pushed safety limits to fuel the booming economy.

Local officials are often accused of scheming with coal mine owners to cover up fatal accidents because they fear punishment, a loss of tax revenues and sometimes the loss of dividends from their own investments in the business.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a rubber-stamp parliament, has this week been considering a criminal law amendment that would criminalize the concealment of work safety accidents, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

Those found trying to lie about or totally covering up an accident could be imprisoned for up to seven years, it said.

But some lawmakers want harsher penalties.

"There have been outrageous cases of covering up colliery accidents by destroying the miners' bodies in some places," Wang Zuxun, a member of the Standing Committee, was quoted as saying, "The term is undoubtedly too short for such deeds."

China has launched a slew of campaigns to clean up the mining industry that have included banning official investment in the coal mines and closing all small collieries, but enforcement by local governments has sometimes been slack.

A pit flood killed 26 coal miners in the northern province of Shanxi last month, while a gas blast that claimed 214 lives in the northeastern province of Liaoning in February 2005 was one of China's worst mining disasters in decades.

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