China sacks head of work safety watchdog

BEIJING • The head of China's work safety watchdog has been sacked, state media said yesterday, as the death toll from giant blasts in one of the country's largest ports rose to 139, with hundreds injured.

Mr Yang Dongliang, director and Communist Party chief of the State Administration of Work Safety, was fired for "suspected severe violation of discipline and the law", said a one-line report from the official Xinhua news agency.

The phrase is generally used as a euphemism for corruption.

Mr Yang was put under investigation less than a week after a series of explosions rocked a chemical storage facility in the northern port of Tianjin on Aug 12.

The death toll rose to 139 yesterday, with 34 still missing and more than 500 people in hospital, local officials announced on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Mr Yang, 61, worked in the city for 18 years and rose to be one of its vice-mayors before heading the work safety agency in 2012.

Industrial accidents are common in China, with graft thought to be a key factor behind lax enforcement of safety regulations.

State media said one of the owners of the company that ran the chemical facility was related to a former high-ranking city police officer.

The incident sparked widespread outrage over alleged government collusion with the company, and fears of pollutants contaminating the air and water of the city, which is home to about 15 million people.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'China sacks head of work safety watchdog'. Print Edition | Subscribe