CHINA> National
368 officials convicted of environmental mismanagment
Updated: 2008-11-13 10:02

BEIJING -- Chinese prosecutors have investigated about 2,400 officials and took 669 to court in a nationwide crackdown on official breaches of duty in natural resources and environment management.

Of them, 368 officials were convicted, said the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) in a press release here Wednesday.

They opened 2,074 cases involving damage to natural resources and the environment and closed 314 in the first nine months of this year.

"These cases were serious, involving 1,467 deaths, 154 injured and losses of 1.6 billion yuan ($235 million)," said the statement.

"Prosecutors reported a higher incidence of breach of duty among officials supervising land use, mineral resources and forest management," said Song Hansong, the SPP prosecutor in charge of the cases.

Forestry departments provided the largest number of officials under investigation at 662, with land management officials numbering 521 and 231 from mineral resources administrations, according to the statement.

"Many cases involved officials from several departments," Song said.

He cited the collapse of an unlicensed iron ore retaining pond that killed at least 276 people in Xiangfen county, Shanxi Province, on September 8.

In that case, 22 local officials from land resources, environment and workplace safety departments were arrested and will be prosecuted on charges of graft and dereliction of duty.

"Usually bribery was involved in breach of duty cases," he said.

Many cases happened at the local level, according to the statement.

A case in Leping city of eastern Jiangxi Province was considered typical. About 20 hectares of reserved forest were illegally logged by two individuals after they submitted fake documents to the city forestry department and get approval for logging.

Five officials from the township government, local forest reserve station and city forestry bureau were convicted of abusing their authority in August received jail terms of six months to a year.

Through September, prosecutors investigated 53 officials from environment watchdog departments.

"Although the number was small, their negative impact was widespread," he said.

In June, the arsenic pollution to Yangzonghai Lake in southwestern Yunnan Province affected water supplies to more than 26,000 people.

So far 12 officials, including Fang Jianhua, director of the city environmental protection bureau, have been sacked, but no report was available about whether any would be prosecuted.