Two teachers have been suspended from their posts until they can convince their relatives to stop petitioning against illegal coal mines with ties to the local officials.
Li Yanrong and Bai Boling, teachers from Hengshan county, Shaanxi province, were told by county officials to go home and persuade their relatives not to expose the illegal coal mines, which local officials have shares in, China National Radio (CNR) reported Monday.
"Mind your own business! Don't you think you asked too many questions?" Su Zhizhong, the Hengshan party secretary, said when CNR reporters asked him about the issue.
The person in charge of planning the petition against the mines, Hu Jianhuai, is a 72-year-old retired teacher in Huloupang village and the father-in-law of suspended teacher Li.
"The decision may have been made by county officials with the idea of putting pressure on Li's father-in-law," Zhang Zhonghou, the director of the Hengshan county education bureau, told CNR Monday.
The teachers won't be allowed back to work if they do not prevent their relatives' actions, CNR reported.
Hu said the farmland and water supply of his village was ruined by unsafe mining practices from the two mines there. Both of them had been ordered shut down by the Shaanxi government in January.
But despite the government's order, the mines were operating illegally with heavy security on site to keep outsiders away, CNR reported.
In desperation, people from the Huloupang village decided to send a petition regarding illegal mines to a higher authority.
"My village is suffering because of the mines. What the government did is clearly to protect the interests of small mines and themselves by abusing their power," said Hu.
Some people believe the illegal mines in Hengshan county mines were allowed to continue operations because government officials and public servants were private investors of the mines, and closing them would affect the officials' financial interests, according to CNR.
A worker at one of the illegal mines in Huloupang village confirmed that the chairman of the mine was Wang Yaobin, branch manager of the state-owned Agriculture Development Bank of Hengshan county.
Cao Peiming, deputy director of Hengxian city construction bureau, and Zhang Bingtuan, office manager of the Hengxian office of mineral resources, were also among the investors of the mine, according to CNR.
Chinese officials are prohibited from holding shares in mines in order to prevent them from protecting unsafe mines.