Shanxi to get tough on people who illegally keep explosives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

Shanxi aims to reduce the number of blasts from illegally stored explosives by asking the country's high court to endorse tougher penalties for people illegally producing, selling, transporting or storing the material, Shanxi governor Yu Youjun said yesterday.

Mr Yu's announcement that the province would ask the high court for a judicial interpretation on the issue follows the deaths of at least 49 people last week in Dongzhai village, Ningwu county, caused by the explosion of a cache of explosives stored in a home.

Mr Yu said the light penalties for people making, selling and buying illegal explosives were a key factor fuelling the rampant underground trade in his province.

'Most of the time, we could only fine the suspects and detain them for several days, under public security regulations, not under national laws,' Mr Yu said. 'The punishments are little deterrent to the behaviour. People involved in the trade will only be fined some money if arrested but will make a big fortune if not arrested.'

According to a 2001 high court judicial interpretation, people can be jailed for three to 10 years for illegally producing, selling and buying, transporting, mailing or storing explosives, with the sentence depending on the amount of explosives involved. Without giving a timetable, Mr Yu said the province would try to encourage the court to issue judicial interpretations for tougher punishments for the offences.

Mr Yu also pledged to inspect every household in the province to clean out illegal stores of explosives and offer high rewards to encourage the public to report the crimes.

The state council and state work safety and coal mine supervision authorities have also issued urgent notices in recent days, requiring local authorities to conduct urgent safety inspections on detonators. Shanxi is China's biggest coal and coke producer and also a centre of frequent coal mine blasts and accidental blasts of illegally stored explosives.

In April, 31 people were killed when illegally stored explosives owned by a private mine operator erupted in a Yuanping hospital compound. Last month, at least 10 people were killed and 18 injured in a blast at a local government leader's house in Fanzhi county, an accident that was also linked to mine explosives.