Local protection on illegal enterprises to be probed
Updated: 2006-09-29 09:19

The Chinese government will launch a new crackdown on local authority protection of illegal enterprises in its campaign of reducing environmental pollution, the 21st Century Business Herald has reported.

Inspection teams, comprising environmental and judicial officials from the central government, will be dispatched to seven provinces in mid October, the report said.

"The officials will carry out field inspections and covert investigations into the provinces' chemical plants and industrial zones," the newspaper quoted Chen Shanrong, an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), as saying.

The report said the officials were from the SEPA, National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Supervision, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Justice, State Administration of Work Safety and State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

"These inspections will probe both environmental issues and people who are involved," said Liu Youbin, deputy director of SEPA press office.

"Those acting as 'protective umbrellas' to illegal enterprises will be severely punished," the report quoted Liu as saying.

The report said the participation of Ministry of Supervision and Ministry of Justice in the inspection teams demonstrated the central government's determination to punishing guilty local officials.

Frequent pollution incidents in recent years have made China's leadership sensitive to environmental issues, but the central government's efforts have failed to stop enterprises discharging waste into rivers and lakes.

"Some local governments are entangled with the enterprises," the report quoted Chen as saying. "Certain officials were like 'protective umbrellas' for illegal enterprises."

SEPA deputy director Pan Yue has vehemently criticized local authorities, saying that officials should be held responsible for the environmental pollution incidents in Gansu and Hunan Provinces.

A lead poisoning incident earlier September this year in Huixian County in northwest China's Gansu Province resulted in around 250 children under the age of 14 being hospitalized and hundreds more were found to have an excessive amount of lead in their blood.

Investigations revealed the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smeltering Co. Ltd. was the source of the pollution.

The other scare was caused by two factories in Yueyang of Hunan Province, which were releasing waste water with a high concentration of arsenide into the Xinqiang River, affecting the water supply for 80,000 residents at the lower reaches.

According to the report, the inspection teams will head to the provinces of Henan, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Jilin, Guizhou, Anhui and Hubei in mid October, mostly inland provinces. One team has already arrived in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

"Any enterprises that cause environmental pollution with illegal operations will be punished, suspended or closed. We cannot afford to be soft-hearted and merciful towards them," Chen said.