The Communist Party of China's (CPC) disciplinary watchdog will punish more severely those who fail to maintain safety in production to prevent accidents in workplaces.
Officials will be demoted, sacked or even expelled from the CPC if they take advantage of their posts to influence purchase, public biddings or accident probes, according to the new 10-point rules released by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) Thursday.
Those who try to save people responsible for the accidents, too, face severe punishment.
This is the first time the CCDI has specified its disciplinary punishments. It reflects the CPC's resolve to fight corruption, CCDI deputy chief and spokesman Gan Yisheng said.
People also face punishment for:
Granting approval to companies that fail to meet work safety standards, certifying unqualified units and/or people, and lifting the ban on firms breaking work safety regulations;
Failing to take effective steps to clear hidden dangers, forcing employees to work overtime, taking risks at work, or allowing unqualified people to work;
Providing dangerous materials including poisons and explosives to unregistered or unqualified companies.
"Dereliction of duty on the part of some government officials and official-businessmen nexus are behind many of the accidents," Gan told a news briefing.
The new rules, along with the legal and administrative penalties, will make it "feasible" to haul up anyone suspected of being responsible for an accident.
"But that does not mean the CPC disciplinary penalties will be a substitute for legal punishment. Anyone who violates the law has to face the law," Gan said.
State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) Director Li Yizhong said nepotism at the local level has hindered bringing "people responsible for workplace accidents to justice".
For instance, the 11 people responsible for the November 2005 coal mine accident in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang Province, in which 171 people were killed, have not yet been punished.
The Legal Evening News has quoted the victims' lawyer, Na Guohai, as saying: "Protectionism at the local level is responsible for the delay in the case."
The government has been trying to ensure safety at workplaces and prevent accidents. As a result, the number of accident deaths dropped 13.8 percent in first 11 months of the year.
But fatal accidents still take place. Three coal mine accidents in Shanxi Province alone have claimed 159 lives this year.
Major accidents in other sectors such as fireworks plants, and metal and non-metal mines and construction sites have been rising, too, since November.
Gan urged disciplinary departments at all levels to implement the new rules without being lenient with corrupt officials.