The first time I posted about the Tianjin explosion, the government wasn’t giving any info. on the cause(s) of the accident. The death toll rose over 100 and lots of people are injured. China has also experienced structural problems in the past from contractors who cut corners in terms of regulation. Moreover, the overall number of accidents, death tolls, and injuries (from accidents) have been declining in China.
In this article from the NY Times, the owner of the warehouses admitted fault to the public, and the government will investigate and punish those who were involved to allow these warehouses to operate when they violated regulations. You will realize how important social networks are to get you what you want/need in China. Visit the source to see another image and a graphic!
Chinese Report Details Role of Political Connections in Tianjin Blasts
By DAN LEVINAUG. 19, 2015
BEIJING — The mayor of the northern Chinese city where huge explosions killed more than 100 people last week took responsibility for the disaster on Wednesday, as the authorities sought to contain growing public anger about the accident. Mounting evidence has suggested that political malfeasance and rampant safety violations played significant roles in the accident.
“I bear unshirkable responsibility for this accident as head of the city,” said Huang Xingguo, the mayor and acting Communist Party secretary of the metropolis, Tianjin, in his first news conference since the blasts at a chemical warehouse on Aug. 12. The authorities have said that the explosions killed 114 people and injured 674, and that more than 17,000 homes were damaged. Displaced residents have protested for days in Tianjin to demand that the government buy back their homes, which they say are now worthless.
The mayor’s televised mea culpa appeared to signal a shift in the authorities’ response to the political fallout from the disaster. After days of official silence, the government has begun releasing information about the owners of the warehouse company, Rui Hai International Logistics, including their admission of corruption, in an effort to quash public accusations of a cover-up.
On Wednesday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that two major shareholders in Rui Hai had admitted to using their political connections to gain government approvals for the site, despite clear violations of rules prohibiting the storage of hazardous chemicals within 3,200 feet of residential areas.
Yu Xuewei, the company chairman, is a former executive at a state-owned chemical company, and Dong Shexuan, the vice chairman, is the son of a former police chief at the Tianjin port. The two executives, who deliberately concealed their ownership stakes behind a murky corporate structure, told Xinhua that they had leveraged their personal relationships with government officials to obtain licenses for the site. Both men have been detained.
“The first safety appraisal company said our warehouses were too close to the apartment building,” said Mr. Dong, 34, referring to a residential complex that was severely damaged and now stands empty. “Then we found another company who got us the documents we needed.”
The executives established Rui Hai in 2012 but had other people list their shares to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Mr. Yu, 41, acknowledged that he held 55 percent of the shares through his cousin, Li Liang, the president of the company. Mr. Dong holds 45 percent of the shares through a former classmate.
“I had my schoolmate hold shares for me because of my father,” a former police chief who died in 2014, Mr. Dong told Xinhua. “If the news of me investing in a business leaked, it could have brought bad influence.”
In the wake of previous crises that reflected poorly on the ruling Communist Party, including a tainted milk scandal in 2008 in which six infants died and a high-speed train crash in 2011, top government officials placed the blame on others rather than holding themselves accountable. So the sight of Mr. Huang accepting responsibility on Wednesday seemed to reflect a revision of crisis management, coming after a series of news briefings in which officials refused to answer reporters’ questions, creating outrage.
“As the first few conferences were chaired by relatively low-ranking officials, the results proved unsatisfactory and the conferences were received by public criticism,” said a report on Wednesday in People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.
Mr. Huang explained his absence from previous news conferences by saying he had been busy directing the rescue operations. Describing the 53 firefighters killed in the blasts and the 49 still missing as “martyrs,” he vowed that a memorial park would be built on the site of the explosions in their honor.
The government was continuing to search for missing people, while doing all it could to save the injured and monitor the environment for chemical contamination, he added.
In light of the news that political connections had played a role in the accident, Mr. Huang promised a thorough investigation and harsh punishment for those at fault.
“No matter who owns the company, what kind of connection there is, we will investigate until the end,” he said. Still, accountability appeared to go only so far, at least in public. When asked by reporters whether any Tianjin officials would resign over the disaster, Mr. Huang said only that “we will handle it objectively and fairly according to facts.”
Zhang Ming, a professor of politics at Renmin University in Beijing, said the accident had emphasized the dangers of the lack of official accountability in China.
“Arresting people is not going to solve this problem,” he said in a telephone interview, citing the ease with which the politically connected executives were able to flout regulations, despite a host of government agencies set up to prevent such violations. “This is the time to push for the reform of China’s political structure and let everyone be treated equally before the law.”
Even though the Chinese authorities have implored the public to trust the government since the blasts occurred, many people remain skeptical that the disaster will lead to an end to corruption or believe that the government will punish the officials responsible.
“The corruption is like cancer, and we are a patient at a late stage,” said Wang Baoshun, 36, who owns a newsstand in central Beijing. “You can have a few surgeries, but you won’t be able to get rid of it for good.”