China sacks environmental minister after toxic spill
Updated: 2005-12-03 10:36
China's environmental minister resigned under pressure after his ministry
angrily berated officials in the northeastern province of Jilin for covering up
a toxic spill.
Xie Zhenhua, head of the ministry-level State
Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), quit his post and was replaced
by Zhou Shengxian, former director of the State Forestry Administration.
Xie Zhenhua, taking
blame for the river pollution, has resigned.
A circular issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China
Central Committee and the State Council said Xie's resignation was directly
linked to a November 13 benzene spill into the Songhua river that resulted in an
100 kilometer (60 mile) long toxic slick now floating downstream toward Russia.
"After this major water pollution incident occurred, (it was determined that)
SEPA has failed to pay sufficient attention to the incident and underestimated
its possible serious impact," the circular from the cabinet said.
"It should bear due responsibility for the losses caused by this incident."
The spill, which came after a massive explosion at a PetroChina chemical
plant in Jilin city, resulted in a five-day cut of water supplies to the 3.8
million residents of Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province.
Earlier SEPA vice head Wang Yuqing angrily blamed officials in Jilin for
failing to quickly report the spill, while lamenting that the blind pursuit of
economic growth in China had led to 25 years of worsening environmental
"When a big pollution incident happens, the local environmental protection
departments must promptly report the pollution situation to the agency," Wang
said on the agency's website.
"We will not allow the cover-up of the truth. You cannot
delay the report and delay prompt counter-measures."
The joint circular
ordered relevant departments to step up investigations into the cause of the
explosion and pollution incidents, and pledged to "seriously punish those
Jiang Chengsong, a member of the Environmental and Resources Protection
Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said the
quick replacement of the environmental chief after the Songhua River pollution
incident also shows the improvement of China's political system.
"It indicates that the country's accountability system for officials has
become more mature," he said.