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Hebei officials punished for failing to curb pollution

By Zhang Yu | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-10 07:38

200 factories were closed, while 123 people were detained after inspections last year

Nearly 500 government officials and company leaders in Hebei province have been held accountable for environment-related issues, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

An inspection team sent by the central government found problems with 468 government officials and 19 company managers, including dereliction of duty and abuse of power.

Among them, five have been handed over to judicial organs, and 10 others have been dismissed or moved to other positions. The rest received punishment in other forms, such as demerits and admonishment, the ministry said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Li Bao, a former deputy head of the Hebei Environmental Protection Department, will be subject to criminal prosecution for abuse of power.

Two branch companies of Hesteel Group Co, China's largest steel producer, were admonished for not eliminating high-polluting equipment and for building a new furnace without permission.

The central government's environmental protection inspection team started to look for problems in Hebei province at the end of last year. In one month, the inspection team found 2,856 problems with polluting in the province and handed evidence to the provincial government in May.

In response, the Hebei government quickly shut down 200 polluting factories, detained 123 people and admonished 491 others.

The 487 people exposed on Tuesday is the latest group to be punished, bringing the total of those punished to 1,101.

Chen Zhenhui, a publicity official at the Environmental Protection Bureau of Baoding in Hebei-one of the cities with serious air pollution-said severe and timely punishment for related officials and business leaders is a strong reminder that the government is taking polluting seriously.

"It will help scare off those people who might potentially violate environmental protection rules," he said.

Hebei, neighboring Beijing, is known for its heavy pollution mainly caused by traditional heavy industries such as iron and steel. According to a report on the air quality of 74 major cities by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, six out of the 10 cities with the worst air quality over the first three quarters were in Hebei.

The province's average annual concentration of PM 2.5-hazardous particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter-was 77 micrograms per cubic meter last year, which is 52 micrograms per cu m higher than the standard set by the World Health Organization.

The province has taken a series of measures to improve its environment since 2013, such as slashing coal-burning and reducing steel capacity.

The Hebei government said that by 2020, the province would have no cities on the list of those with the worst air pollution, and its average annual concentration of PM 2.5 would be reduced by 25 percent from that of last year.

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