China / Cover Story

'Big ministry' criticized, changes under way

By Wang Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2011-07-29 07:55

The Ministry of Railways has always been a "big ministry" in China because of its strategic position in national security, said Shu Kexin, a Beijing-based public affairs expert and a special commentator at Vodone, a news video website.

What he meant by "big ministry" is that Railways is not only a government body, but is also responsible for railway-related production and construction, meaning it also functions as a company.

"I don't think being a big ministry is the direct reason of this accident," Shu said. "On the contrary, having access to resources of all aspects makes it easier for the ministry to ensure safety. The problem is the lack of transparency and a healthy system."

He talked about the system of requiring real names for ticket sales. "It's not clear to the public how they (the ministry) are using the information and why a full passenger list cannot be released. With a healthy system built up within the ministry, there should be directions on how to react when such accidents happen."

Shu said that setting up a passenger database and a hotline would easily allow the ministry to list all passengers, as well as to identify the missing and the dead.

Shu is not the only one to notice the "big ministry" situation. The central government has already taken steps.

In February, Railways Minister Liu Zhijun was removed from office on allegations of "severe violation of discipline".

And in March, Cao Jianming, chief of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said that railway procuratorates were being removed from the ministry. In the past, the railway procuratorates reported to the ministry on financial, personnel and duty issues.

"Under that circumstances, railway justice is like the son judging the father," Shu said. "Its credibility is in question."

He said the action of separating railway procuratorates from the ministry shows that reform is under way.

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