Watchdog established in wake of explosions
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan
The State Council has set up a special committee headed by Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo to supervise production safety after a spate of explosions and accidents.
Alarmed by the frequency of major accidents, sources said Premier Zhu Rongji decided at the last meeting of the Premier's office to set up a Safe Production Committee under the State Council headed by Vice-Premier Wu.
The new committee will share the same office as the State Bureau of Safety Production Supervision. Mr Wu will be the committee's leader but bureau director Zhang Baoming will look after its daily operation.
Mr Wu will also be responsible for co-ordinating central government ministries, the army and the People's Armed Police in rescues when accidents happen.
The new committee is also responsible for regular evaluation of safety in various sectors, including fireworks factories, mines, transport systems, oil and gas-supply facilities and public entertainment venues to prevent accidents and sabotage.
Ministries under the State Council, such as the State Economic and Trade Commission, each used to have a department to supervise production safety. Sources said efforts to set up an extra Safety Production Committee directly under the State Council showed the Beijing leadership's concerns over safety.
'Many people in society already feel insecure because of lay-offs and migrant workers coming in from the countryside,' a State Council official said, adding that there would be a negative reaction if any sense of insecurity was reinforced by explosions and traffic accidents.
'There were rumours that the explosions in Hebei's Shijiazhuang were acts by laid-off workers,' he said.
He was referring to explosions last month in Shijiazhuang that killed at least 108 people. The authorities have arrested a laid-off worker, Jin Ruchao, and accused him of carrying out the explosions as acts of revenge.