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Scourge of corruption killed Daxing miners
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-19 08:38:00

    BEIJING, Aug. 19 -- Preliminary investigations have shown probably it is collusion between officials and business people that has turned the Daxing Coal Mine in southern Guangdong Province into a death trap.

    Several bodies have been recovered, but most of the 123 miners caught in the flooded shaft are still nowhere to be found following the disaster on August 7.

    While millions across the country are questioning why the owner of the Daxing Mine dared to operate without necessary licences and even defied the Guangdong provincial government's order of July 14 to suspend production in the wake of a disaster that left 14 miners dead, they only have to look as far as Zeng Yungao.

    Zeng, the 39-year-old chairman of the Dajingli Coal Company that owns the Daxing Mine, is a smooth operator in the bureaucratic local government system. Since he bought the Daxing Mine, which was privatized in 1999, Zeng has quickly become known not only for his wealth but his extensive government connections.

    Zeng knows politics and business extremely well. In the last few years he has managed to become deputy to two local legislative bodies the Meizhou People's Congress and the Xingning People's Congress. Xingning, a county-level city, is part of Meizhou.

    He has also won awards from the local government, being named in "The Top 10 Outstanding Young Entrepreneurs of Xingning City" and "Person Making Great Contribution to Xingning's Economy."

    Locals looked on in awe last Spring Festival when 130 cars jammed the village where Zeng was holding a feast for his business connections, or guanxi, including some local government officials.

    Through Zeng's connections, the deadly Daxing Mine was named an "Advanced Enterprise" by the local government. The mine also received a "safety production" certificate just two months before the disaster, although the mine did not have mining and business licences.

    Three other vice-chairmen of Zeng's coal company were found to be deputies to the local People's Congress and members of the standing committee of the local Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, while several of the mine's 65 shareholders are local city and township officials.

    It is still not known how Zeng persuaded the local government to approve resumption of production after his mine was ordered a number of times to suspend operations at the risk of closure.

    A high-level investigation team from the State Council, China's cabinet, has vowed to look thoroughly into the possibility of serious corruption and collusion between businesses and local governments in the Daxing Mine case.

    The exchange of power and money, which Zeng knows all about, is common in many coal mining areas and some other business sectors. People like Zeng usually bribe local officials to protect them and turn a blind eye to serious violations of laws.

    Many officials have abused their power by favouring certain businesses. These officials are usually willing to team up with local business people to deceive higher government. Supervision of local businesses then becomes a farce.

    For many of these corrupt officials, the safety of hundreds or even thousands of poor miners is nothing compared to their close ties with businesses, and therefore money. Miners, who are often farmers-turned-workers desperate for work to support their families, fall victim to those officials' casual malfeasance, as shown by the Daxing disaster.

    While the top-level government team has expressed its determination to crack down on inappropriate relationships between local authorities and enterprises, investigations should cover the thousands of other coal mines across the country.

    Zeng Yungao, owner of the Daxing Mine, has many equivalents in China. Other sectors where officials and business people collaborate for ill-gotten gains abound must also be put under the microscope.

    If we cannot eliminate this scourge, the nation's coal mines will sadly remain as deadly as Daxing.

    (Source: China Daily)

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