Shanghai Fires Four Officials for Deadly New Year’s Stampede

January 21, 2015

Shanghai sacked four officials and punished seven others for not providing enough security to prevent the deadly New Year’s Eve stampede, the first punishments meted out after President Xi Jinping ordered a probe into the accident.

Officials from Huangpu district, where the disaster occurred, failed to monitor crowd traffic and didn’t respond to emergencies quickly, Xiong Xinguang, head of Shanghai’s emergency reaction office, said today at a briefing announcing results of the investigation. Huangpu district Party Secretary Zhou Wei and district chief Peng Song were among the officials removed from their posts, according to an investigation report.

“Huangpu district officials underestimated the risk of massive numbers of people gathering at the site,” Xiong said. “There was a serious lack of precautions and preparations.”

The stampede in the historic Bund area, which killed 36 people, was the city’s deadliest since 2010. The disaster tarnished Shanghai’s image as it seeks to become a global financial center and spurred the government to cancel several large events celebrating next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

Today’s investigation report provided details on the chain of events leading up to the stampede. The trampling occurred at 11:35 p.m. when crowds suddenly grew large and people started falling from stairs leading up to the Bund’s famous riverside promenade. The number of revelers surged to about 310,000 from 120,000 within two hours, according to the investigation, which examined 70 hours of video clips from 36 security cameras.

Canceled Event

The report also blamed the officials for not adequately communicating to the public that an annual New Year’s countdown event at the Bund had been canceled and a large number of visitors were expecting the event. Notice that the event was canceled was only made the day before, the report said.

Chenyi Square, where the stairs are located, is the most densely packed area of the Bund as it is about 500 meters from two subway lines, the report said. The two subway stations were operating that night in a break from past years.

Zhou and Peng were also among officials found to have violated the Communist Party’s frugality rules for dining on public funds on the night of the stampede, according to the website of the discipline inspection commission. The government began an investigation after Caixin reported that Huangpu officials held a party at a high-end Japanese restaurant.

“This is in line with expectations that the incident would lead to some changes in Shanghai’s official circles,” said Hu Xingdou, a professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Beijing Institute of Technology. “So far, the results are satisfactory.”

Safety Priority

Of the 49 people that were injured, three are still hospitalized, Shanghai government spokesman Xu Wei said today. Two-thirds of the fatalities were female, according to a name list posted by the government. Most who died were in their 20s or teens, the list showed. The youngest was 12.

President Xi told local governments to prioritize safety ahead of the mass celebrations for the Lunar holidays that start Feb. 18 and last for a week.

Shanghai canceled five of 29 events scheduled to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Vice Mayor Zhou Bo said at the briefing. The city announced Jan. 10 that it won’t hold its annual Lantern Festival event for safety and management reasons. The government will conduct a scan of potential safety risks in schools, subways and sightseeing venues by end-June, Xiong said.

Inadequate surveillance and shoddy work standards in the city’s construction industry were the cause of a high-rise apartment building fire in 2010 that left 58 people dead, according to then-Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng, who has since been promoted to the city’s highest-ranking Communist Party official.

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