11 Officials Detained Over Deadly Jilin Factory Fire

Xinhua reports that a total of eleven officials have now been detained in connection with the Jilin poultry plant fire that killed 121 people last month:

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) said four persons allegedly hold the responsibility for the accident, including the chief of Mishazi Township Liu Zhenxiang, and the former head of the local construction bureau Song Limin.

[…] In June, the procuratorial organs set up files to investigate and detain another seven suspects, including the former chief and deputy chief of Dehui fire department Lyu Yandong and Liu Guicai, fire department officials Lan Tian and Gao Wei, head of the Mishazi Township police department Zhao Zhen and firefighters Feng Tianming and Sun Zhongguang, the SPP said.

[…] After the accident, some of the suspects, including Lyu and Zhao, falsified information to hide the facts that no serious fire safety inspections had been conducted and that proper fire safety equipment was not in place, among other crimes, it added. [Source]

Two factory executives were also arrested within days of the fire after it emerged that exit doors had been locked to prevent workers from taking breaks or stealing. But local officials had previously praised the plant as “inspiring” and a “leading enterprise.” The New York Times’ Edward Wong described these plaudits as “typical of the symbiotic ties between Communist Party officials and the businesses they are supposed to regulate.” Such official connections have been statistically linked to higher rates of workplace fatalities, and a deputy director at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate commented in 2009 that “behind almost every serious work-safety accident, there is dereliction of duty by government employees.”

Although suspects have been rounded up in Jilin, some suspect that those detained are being used to shield their superiors from blame. From Keith Zhai at South China Morning Post:

“These small potatoes are just scapegoats,” read one post on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging service. “The accident should not have happened and could have been completely avoided if the officials put more effort in their work.”

A Jilin native said he was expecting more people to be punished after the lengthy investigation, but admitted lenience for higher officials reflected the country’s political nature.

“The senior officials are all stand unaffected like many other cases that I know,” he said. “That’s why the Chinese people have been suffering from endless accidents.” [Source]


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