China probes work safety chief after Tianjin blasts

2015-08-19 08:45Global Times Editor: Li Yan

Gov't says white bubbles during heavy rain normal as residents fear contamination

China's discipline watchdog on Tuesday said it is probing the official in charge of the country's work safety, as the government moves to dispel public concerns over transparency in the investigation of the deadly Tianjin explosions. [Special coverage]

Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), has been placed under investigation by the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

He is suspected of "severe violations of discipline and law," the CCDI stated on its official website without elaborating.

On Sunday, Yang was seen accompanying Premier Li Keqiang to the blast site.

He also attended a meeting with public security minister Guo Shengkun on Monday to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.

The CCDI website says the 61-year-old Yang served as an official in Tianjin as early as 1996, rising to vice-mayor in 2001, before he was appointed the country's work safety chief in May 2012.

He allegedly signed a policy in 2012 allowing companies with a port operations license to store hazardous chemicals without special certification, according to a report by the China News Service.

Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics, the company that owns the portside warehouse that exploded on August 12, was reportedly not authorized to store hazardous chemicals but was nevertheless allowed to do so under the policy.

As of Tuesday, more than 10 executives of Ruihai International Logistics have been detained, including its board director, Yu Xuewei, and deputy director, Dong Shexuan, the son of a former head of the public security bureau of the Tianjin port, Tianjin Daily reported.

Caijing Magazine quoted anonymous sources as saying that Yang's fall may not be directly related to last week's warehouse explosions, but may have something to do with his earlier years in Tianjin when he was in charge of industry and State assets.

'No corruption cover-up'

The CCDI's announcement came a day after a commentary published on the CPC's flagship newspaper, the People's Daily, called for a thorough investigation of the tragedy.

"Facing an incident of such great magnitude, the central authorities' stance is clear and resolute, which is to thoroughly probe [the cause of the blast]," the commentary read.

"China had handled the cases of Zhou Yongkang, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Ling Jihua in a thorough and public fashion. Why would it conceal the truth of a safety incident or protect officials [that should be held accountable]?" it said.

Zhou, China's former security chief, along with the other three senior officials, had been sacked in recent years for corruption and various other charges during China's anti-graft campaign.

The People's Procuratorate in Tianjin said Tuesday that it has filed bribery charges against two other officials from Tianjin's Binhai New Area, where the port is located.

The State Council has established a team, headed by Executive Vice-Minister of Public Security Yang Huanning, to investigate the cause of the Tianjin explosions, according to a statement issued by the State Council on Tuesday.

The team will "file a thorough report" to the Party and the people, and those found culpable will be seriously punished, it said.

"The CCDI's and State Council's involvement directly addresses public concerns that the truth might be concealed if the investigation is conducted by the person or organization under question," Hu Xingdou, a political science professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.

"It will also prevent interference from various government branches, given the complicated structure of the port management," Hu noted.

Tianjin port is jointly controlled by the Tianjin government and the Ministry of Transportation, according to Zong Guoying, Party secretary of Binhai New Area. The media has called the structure "confusing" and "lacking efficiency."

Pollution concerns

Rain on Tuesday morning complicated rescue efforts as local residents feared that the water might spread pollution.

Pictures taken in Tianjin after the rain showed white residue on the streets, which sparked concerns over potential health hazards.

Deng Xiaowen, director of the Tianjin Environmental Monitoring Center, said Tuesday in a group interview, which included a Global Times reporter, that no changes in the readings have been detected from the city's 17 stations, and that the white bubbles seen in photos are nothing unusual when it rains.

As of Tuesday, a total of 114 people were confirmed dead, and 57 remain missing.

The city mourned the victims on Tuesday, the seventh day after the blasts, which in Chinese tradition is when the souls of the victims return home.

Cargo ship horns blared in honor of the dead, while people stood in silence.


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