Tianjin blasts: Ruling party ousts former safety chief

Anti-graft watchdog transfers case to judicial authorities, a sign of impending prosecution

BEIJING • The former head of China's work safety authority has been ousted from the ruling Communist Party for corruption, its antigraft watchdog has said, after giant explosions in Tianjin that killed at least 165.

Mr Yang Dongliang, 61, was removed as director of the State Administration of Work Safety two weeks after a series of detonations at a dangerous chemicals storage facility rocked the northern port in August. Before taking up his national post, Mr Yang worked in Tianjin for 18 years and rose to be one of its vice-mayors.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement yesterday that he was stripped of his party membership and transferred to judicial authorities - normally a precursor to prosecution and trial, with conviction virtually guaranteed in the country's party-supervised courts.

As a senior cadre of the party, Mr Yang "lost his ideals and conviction", said the statement. An investigation found Mr Yang, among other things, violated regulations to land jobs and promotions for his son, took advantage of his power to embezzle public properties and assets, and sought business gains for companies in exchange for bribes, it said.

His actions were "vicious in nature and the circumstances were particularly serious", it said, using phrases that often portend severe punishment in China's legal system.

CCDI in the same statement also announced the expulsion of Mr Zhou Benshun, previously the most senior official in Hebei province, and a close ally of jailed former security chief Zhou Yongkang. Accusations against Mr Zhou Benshun included illegally keeping confidential documents and leaking party and state secrets, making comments that ran afoul of top party leaders' stances on "major issues", and taking bribes, it said.

His case has also been handed over to judicial authorities, it added.

Six other acolytes of Zhou Yongkang went through court proceedings this week, with four of them sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in jail and verdicts pending on the other two.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pursued a highly publicised anti- graft drive since taking office, vowing to go after both senior "tigers" and low-level "flies".

Zhou Yongkang, imprisoned for life in June after a secret trial, was the highest ranking former official prosecuted by Beijing in decades.

But some critics liken the campaign to a political purge and say the Communist Party has failed to introduce systemic reforms to prevent graft, such as public disclosure of assets.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Tianjin blasts: Ruling party ousts former safety chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe