He­bei of­fi­cials pun­ished for fail­ing to curb pol­lu­tion

Two hun­dred fac­to­ries closed, 123 peo­ple de­tained, 491 oth­ers ad­mon­ished

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YU in Shi­ji­azhuang zhangyu1@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Nearly 500 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and com­pany lead­ers in He­bei province have been held ac­count­able for en­vi­ron­ment-re­lated is­sues, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion.

An in­spec­tion team sent by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment found problems with 468 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and 19 com­pany man­agers, in­clud­ing dere­lic­tion of duty and abuse of power.

Among them, five have been handed over to ju­di­cial or­gans, and 10 oth­ers have been dis­missed or moved to other po­si­tions. The rest re­ceived pun­ish­ment in other forms, such as de­mer­its and ad­mon­ish­ment, the min­istry said in a state­ment re­leased on Tues­day.

Li Bao, a for­mer deputy head of the He­bei En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment, will be sub­ject to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion for abuse of power.

Two branch com­pa­nies of Hes­teel Group Co, China’s largest steel pro­ducer, were ad­mon­ished for not elim­i­nat­ing high-pol­lut­ing equip­ment and for build­ing a new fur­nace with­out per­mis­sion.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in­spec­tion team started to look for problems in He­bei province at the end of last year. In one month, the in­spec­tion team found 2,856 problems with pol­lut­ing in the province and handed ev­i­dence to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in­May.

In re­sponse, theHe­bei gov­ern­ment quickly shut down 200 pol­lut­ing fac­to­ries, de­tained 123 peo­ple and ad­mon­ished 491 oth­ers.

The 487 peo­ple ex­posed on Tues­day is the lat­est group to be pun­ished, bring­ing the to­tal of those pun­ished to 1,101.

Chen Zhen­hui, a pub­lic­ity of­fi­cial at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau of Baod­ing in He­bei — one of the cities with se­ri­ous air pol­lu­tion — said se­vere and timely pun­ish­ment for re­lated of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers is a strong re­minder that the gov­ern­ment is tak­ing pol­lut­ing se­ri­ously.

“It will help scare off those peo­ple who might po­ten­tially vi­o­late en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion rules,” he said.

He­bei, neigh­bor­ing Bei­jing, is known for its heavy pol­lu­tion mainly caused by tra­di­tional heavy in­dus­tries such as iron and steel. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the air qual­ity of 74 ma­jor cities by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, six out of the 10 cities with the worst air qual­ity over the first three quar­ters were in­He­bei.

The province’s av­er­age an­nual con­cen­tra­tion of PM 2.5 — haz­ardous par­tic­u­late mat­ter less than 2.5 mi­crom­e­ters in di­am­e­ter — was 77 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter last year, which is 52 mi­cro­grams per cu m higher than the stan­dard set by the­World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The province has taken a se­ries of mea­sures to im­prove its en­vi­ron­ment since 2013, such as slash­ing coal-burn­ing and re­duc­ing steel ca­pac­ity.

The He­bei gov­ern­ment said that by 2020, the province would have no cities on the list of those with the worst air pol­lu­tion, and its av­er­age an­nual con­cen­tra­tion of PM 2.5 would be re­duced by 25 per­cent from that of last year.

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