China’s senior safety inspector has called on people and the media to expose workplace accidents in a bid to use public pressure to ferret out the corruption and official misdeeds aggravating the country’s high rate of work deaths.
Li Yizhong, the popular head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said public whistle-blowing provides crucial clues for investigators often hobbled by cover-ups by local officials, especially on coal mine accidents.
“We welcome the public’s supervision. We welcome the reports made by people to expose corruption,” Li said at a news conference. “According to some tips, for example, we have found government officials who made unlawful investments in coal mines.”
China has a woeful if improving record on safety, with 101,480 deaths in accidents last year. Chinese coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with 3,786 miners killed, a figure that marks a 20 percent improvement from 2006 but is believed by experts to understate casualties as mine owners and officials hide accidents to avoid costly investigations and penalties.
An explosion killed at least 20 miners last Sunday night in a mine in Shanxi province that Li said inspectors dynamited shut but that its owner had secretly reopened.
When asked by reporters, Li said he could not confirm a report in the British newspaper The Sunday Times that said at least 10 workers have died building the showpiece National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, for this August’s Beijing Olympics.
The Beijing Olympic organizing committee said the report was false.
But Li again called for public help in exposing problems on Olympic projects and said he would order an investigation and if true punish those responsible.
The appeal for public and media tips is an increasingly common tactic by China’s leadership as it tries to limit widespread official corruption and indifference that has tarnished the ruling Communist Party’s image. Corruption investigators and prosecutors have opened hot lines to take tips.
Such calls for action, however, are limited, with authorities still retaining control over what media publishes and broadcasts and arresting whistle-blowers who challenge the party’s rule.
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