MAC: Mines and Communities

China Legislator Praises Safety in Year of Disasters

Published by MAC on 2006-03-10

China Legislator Praises Safety in Year of Disasters

by Reuters News Service, Beijing

10th March 2006

China's top legislator praised parliament on Thursday for saving lives through inspections of mines and polluting plants, despite a year marked by environmental disasters and thousands of coal mine deaths.

China's mining industry, the world's deadliest, killed nearly 6,000 people in 2005 - the same level as the previous year - despite repeated government clean-up campaigns.

The year also saw riots over factory pollution and an explosion at a chemical plant that poured toxic waste into the Songhua River, poisoning drinking water supplies for millions and turning China's environmental record into an international crisis.

"The National People's Congress Standing Committee has saved people's lives through its law enforcement inspections that led to closures of many deadly mines and polluting plants," Xinhua said. The nearly 3,000 delegates to the largely ceremonial congress are meeting for their 10-day annual session to discuss and approve policies set in place by the Communist Party.

"Work safety incidents, which always involve sacrifice of human lives, attracted wide public attention," Wu Bangguo, China's top legislator and the number two in the party hierarchy, said in a report to parliament.

Wu said legislators, who meet in smaller group Standing Committee sessions throughout the year, had hosted forums, inspected the implementation of laws and raised suggestions to the government, crediting their action with saving lives.

"The NPC Standing Committee examined work safety law implementation from various aspects," he said.

China had shut down more than 5,000 unsafe coal mines and government officials had withdrawn 562 million yuan ($70 million) worth of stakes in illegal mines on government orders, Wu said. On Wednesday, 16 officials found responsible for a coal mine flood in the southern province of Guangdong that killed 123 miners were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years with reprieve to six years, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Most were city-level officials or worked in the local work safety bureaux, indicating that while China's leadership tries to enforce a message of accountability, top officials are rarely punished over such disasters.

The mine had been operating without a licence and in violation of local government orders to shut down.

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