Accessibility links

Nearly 100 Chinese Officials Prosecuted Over Mine Deaths

In a year of record deaths from coal mine accidents, China says it has punished nearly a hundred officials for failing to enforce safety regulations that could have saved thousands of lives.

Almost 5,500 people have died in fires, flooding and explosions in Chinese coal mines this year. The death toll is more than 200 above last year's figures.

On Friday, the head of China's industrial safety agency said it has dismissed two deputy provincial governors, and prosecuted 96 officials over the accidents.

Li Yizhong said the accidents clearly indicate that some local authorities and regulators failed to implement work safety standards, or close down illegally operated coal mines.

But Mr. Li said those found responsible for the disasters are likely to get away with light punishment, because such offenses do not carry heavy penalties. The most severe punishment a government official could receive would be dismissal.

China's coal mines are the deadliest in the world, claiming some 5,000 lives annually. One accident in February killed more than 200 miners. Safety authorities say local officials and mine operators often cover up accidents.

China relies heavily on coal for its energy needs. Earlier this month, China vowed to take "iron-handed" measures to improve mine safety, including shutting down at least 4,000 substandard mines by the end of the month.