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Chinese officials told to shape up on safety

The warning comes in the wake of two crashes involving Chinese airlines
The warning comes in the wake of two crashes involving Chinese airlines  

By Willy Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has warned that officials negligent about safety standards may be sacked or even subject to criminal investigations.

The Head of the State Council put ministers on notice at an emergency session one day after a China Northern Airlines plunged into the sea near the northeast city of Dalian, killing all 112 on board.

"Most serious accidents were caused by the lack of proper management," state media on Thursday quoted Zhu as saying.

"Routine examination work should be strengthened, and activities breaking safety rules and regulations should be punished."

Zhu said that after a particularly serious safety incident, the State Council would "go after the administrative responsibility of responsible cadres."

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He added that if criminal elements were involved, such officials would be investigated and prosecuted.

The premier cited an alarming increase in accidents on highways, mines and industrial production sectors.

Safety probe

He said a thorough national safety examination would be conducted in areas including civil aviation, railways, roads, communications, mines and major enterprises.

Last weekend, two mine accidents in the provinces of Guizhou and Hunan took the lives of 34 workers.

China's mines have a terrible safety record
China's mines have a terrible safety record  

The China Northern Airlines accident came within less than a month of an Air China crash in South Korea.

While officials have yet to give a reason for the Dalian accident on Tuesday, provincial papers said a short-circuit on board the 11-year-old aircraft might have started the fatal cabin fire.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing, however, said they were skeptical as to whether Zhu's warnings would significantly improve safety on aircraft or in China's often deadly mines.

They said Zhu had made similar threats of punishment to negligent officials early last year.

However, the only senior cadre to have been penalized was the former party secretary of Jiangxi Province, Shu Huiguo, who was removed from office a year ago after a spate of industrial accidents.




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