CHINA> National
NPC approves tougher punishments
By Sun Shangwu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-30 05:55

An amendment to the Criminal Code toughening punishments for people responsible for industrial accidents or involved in financial irregularities, was approved yesterday.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) approved a maximum jail term of 15 years for people who forced others to work in risky conditions resulting in serious accidents, doubling the previous maximum sentence of seven years.

Committee members said the previous seven-year jail term was too light in view of the severity of recent accidents, according to Yang Yingyu, chairman of the NPC Law Committee.

Industrial accidents, especially in the mining and construction sectors, have frequently been reported in recent years. And lax management and poor safety facilities have often been blamed for the accidents.

According to the latest official figures, there were 52 major accidents on the mainland between January 1 and June 25, killing 827 people. The death toll is 482 less than the same period last year.

The latest disaster was a gas explosion that killed 27 miners in a colliery in Fuxin of Northeast China's Liaoning Province on Wednesday.

The amendment also requires harsher punishments for people responsible for financial irregularities.

For example, senior executive officials of listed companies will face up to three-years behind bars or fines ranging from 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) to 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) if they report fraudulent information to the public.

Other documents passed

The NPC Standing Committee yesterday also finally agreed to abolish the article which criminalizes abortions based on the sex of the fetus, because of big differences among committee members over the issue.

And the committee concluded its session with committee members approving the revised Law on Compulsory Education.

The new law is expected to better regulate the country's nine-years of compulsory education, allowing more students to enjoy a high-quality education.

Committee members also ratified an international convention known as the 1996 Protocol to the Convention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, to ensure the protection of the marine environment in China and promote the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources.

Other documents passed at the session include a convention to promote space co-operation between Asian-Pacific nations, the China-Mexico convention on criminal and judicial assistance and the China-Spain convention on handling prisoners.

Fears allayed over fines for reports on disasters

A proposed new law threatens possible fines for news outlets which report on disasters without authorization.

But the spokesman for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday allayed fears that the media would be punished for reporting emergencies.

An article of the law on emergency management, which was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for review on Saturday, restricts the media in reporting emergencies.

The draft law defines emergencies as industrial accidents, natural disasters, and health and public security crises.

The article says "news media that irregularly reports the development and handling of emergencies without authorization, or releases fraudulent reports will be fined between 50,000 yuan (US$6,250) and 100,000 yuan (US$12,500), if the reports lead to serious consequences."

The law is drafted to improve the information-release system for emergencies and increase transparency, said spokesman Kan Ke at a press conference yesterday.

He said the stipulation is consistent with current practice and promises to provide "service and convenience" for reporters, allowing the media to report practical conditions in a timely and accurate fashion.

Kan also implied the article could be revised after the legislature solicits opinions from its members.

China's Legislation Law stipulates that a law will usually go through three rounds of reviews before being passed.

After the current session, the draft law will be further revised according to opinions from various bodies, and then sent to the committee for further reviews, said Kan.

(China Daily 06/30/2006 page2)