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Tougher penalties sought for cover-ups 2007-06-26 03:37:43
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    BEIJING, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Chinese lawmakers on Monday called for more severe penalties for the fabrication and spread of false information on emergencies.

    The members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) made the remarks during their second reading of the draft emergency response law in their ongoing 28th session.

    The draft stipulates that "units or individuals who know that information regarding an accident or a disaster is untrue yet still spread the information should be corrected or warned".

    Xu Jialu, Vice Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said the punishment was too light.

    "Stronger sanctions are required for those who intentionally spread false information," Xu said.

    The draft stipulates administrative punishments, including disciplinary warnings, demerit record, grave demerit record, demotion, dismissal and discharge from public employment, will be given to officials who fail to act to prevent the emergencies from occurring or to respond to emergencies quickly, hide information about emergencies, fabricate or spread false information and embezzle aid funds and materials.

    Wang Xueping, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said some of the offences already contravened criminal statutes and should lead to prosecution.

    "I suggest to add a provision saying 'actions that are serious enough to be deemed criminal should bear criminal responsibility'," Wang said.

    The draft emergency response law was submitted for first review in June 2006.

    At that time the draft included a provision saying that "news media that irregularly report the development and handling of emergencies without authorization or release fraudulent reports will be fined between 50,000 yuan (6,250 US dollars) and 100,000 yuan, if the reports lead to serious consequences."

    The provision sparked heated discussion amid lawmakers. Some said information transparency was crucial to handling emergencies and that the media's contribution should be affirmed and praised.

    Finally, legislators decided to eliminate the mention of fines from the draft law. Also omitted was the specific reference to reporting of emergencies by news media.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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