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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Custodial sentences For Mine Deaths

Asian Labour News: China:

China Mining TragedyI keep pretty close watch on Stephen Frost's Asian Labour News blog for the more specific information about mining disasters in China that never get listed in the western press.

I do not know a lot about Stephen but according to his blog bio he is a Research Fellow at the Southeast Asia Research Centre City University of Hong Kong. He reads Chinese and obviously puts a lot of time in researching his material. It is always presented factually and concisely.

I had a little rant yesterday over a story Asian Labour News ran about the lenient sentences given to 78 officials found guilty over several mining distasters that cost 76 lives.

I wondered what did some one have to do to get jailed in these incidents, for, in a lot of circumstances, it appears outright manslaughter. Do you have to actually let a charge off or spark a gas leak?

Well today Stephen reports that custodial sentences have been handed down to three persons found responsible for the Ertang coal mine disaster that killed 30 miners in October 2002.

Stephen too is perplexed as to the rationale for these grossly different outcomes and can only make a logical guess:

I'm not entirely sure how to explain the difference in punishment, except that the highest death toll from the four accidents in Henan was 22; eight short of the toll in Guangxi. As Tim indicated in the comments section to the Henan story yesterday, the number of fatalities may be the deciding factor.

I hope that there is no "benchmark" on the importance of lives. I think that the answer maybe a little more human (meaning as in human frailty not a typo for humane) and that is that there is a lack of oversight and control from above and more than likely considerable corruption happening in the investigative and punishment process.