90 held over tin mine accident cover-up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2001, 12:00am

Seventy alleged gang members and 20 employees of a tin mine company have been arrested a day after it was revealed that there was collusion between gangsters and local officials to cover up a mine accident in which at least 81 workers were killed.

The Public Security Bureau in Hechi district, where the Nandan, Guangxi, tin mine is located, had so far smashed nine gangs, arresting more than 70 gangsters and confiscating as many as 200 guns, the People's Daily official Web site reported yesterday.

About 10 criminals were at large and a massive manhunt had been launched, the report said.

Investigators also have detained 20 senior staff of the Longquan mining company that ran the mine.

The arrests followed an investigation carried out by a taskforce from the central Government, led by the State Economic and Trade Commission Minister, Li Rongrong, who on Wednesday admitted that organised criminal gangs colluded with local officials to cover up an accident on July 17 that killed at least 81 workers.

The central Government on Tuesday sent Zhang Baoming, chief of the State Industrial Safety Supervision Administration, to Nandan to also help investigate the accident cover-up.

Mr Zhang, who arrived in Nandan late on Wednesday, was quoted by Xinhua as having given instructions to investigators. The orders apparently came from State Council leaders.

Apart from stepping up rescue and compensation efforts, the central leadership has also demanded that local officials organise measures to restore order within the mining industry in that area, Xinhua said. The Yangcheng Evening News and other reports have revealed that criminals were heavily involved in the Guangxi tin mine industry.

The tin mine industry accounts for 70 per cent of local government revenue and Longquan company owner Li Dongming, who is under arrest, is said to have personal wealth of about one billion yuan (HK$940 million).