Baptism of fire for new safety watchdog chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am

Yesterday's train crash has quickly presented the new chief of the mainland's safety watchdog with a major test.

Wang Jun, a former coal-mine technician, was appointed head of the State Administration of Work Safety only last month, replacing his high-profile predecessor, Li Yizhong .

A native of Datong , Shanxi , Mr Wang had worked as a technician and an official at the Datong coal mine since 1979. He was appointed director of the Datong Coal Mine Bureau in 1995.

Mr Wang was promoted to the central government two years later and became a vice-minister of coal industry. In 1999, he was named a vice-governor for Jiangxi province and stayed until 2006, when he was transferred to the state-run All-China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives as deputy Communist Party secretary.

Mr Li's performance handling many major workplace accidents won him the post as head of one of the most important ministries - the Ministry of Industry and Information - during a reshuffle at the National People's Congress last month.

Mr Wang, formerly a little known bureaucrat, faces a major challenge to show his ability to handle disasters of such magnitude and to improve the country's notorious work safety record.

But he is not alone in the spotlight. Railway Minister Liu Zhijun also went to the scene to supervise the rescue and recovery effort. He has survived many political storms, including the corruption scandal of his brother, Liu Zhixiang , and a lambasting from Guangdong officials over train delays during the winter blizzards before and during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Newly appointed Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang , who is in charge of the portfolio of work safety, also travelled to the accident scene.

The North Korean-trained economist was the Guangdong party boss before he was promoted to the central government last month.