Xinhua News Agency

Police take 2m yuan in 'sponsorship fees' from mine owners

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2008, 12:00am

A Shenmu county police branch in Shaanxi province is under investigation over payment of millions of yuan in 'sponsorship fees' by coal mine owners to the police station, according to mainland media.

Xinhua said that more than 60 county mine owners were called to a meeting organised by the Shenmu County Coal and Coke Association over the weekend to discuss issues including community law and order assistance.

At the end of the session, the mine owners 'voluntarily' donated a total of 2.19 million yuan (HK$2.48 million), the report said.

Daliuta police branch deputy chief Wei Xiaomin reportedly appealed to the mine owners to do whatever they could to buy peace of mind amid rising crime.

Likening the donation to extortion, mainland media and a wide section of the public condemned what they see as a power-for-money deal.

Police forces on the mainland are notorious for extorting money in the name of fines and protection fees. In some coal and mineral-rich regions, police are often accused of colluding with unscrupulous mine owners who use their deep pockets to buy official protection, often at the expense of mine safety.

The investigation comes just two months after some mainland journalists took money to keep quiet about an accident at the Huobaogan River Coal Mine in Hongdong county, Shanxi province , which killed one worker.

Some people have even carved out careers posing as journalists to extort money from unscrupulous mine owners hoping to buy their way out of trouble following a mining accident.

Quoting officials from the Communist Party committee in Yulin, which oversees Shenmu county, Xinhua reported yesterday that the provincial and municipal police departments had both launched investigations into the 'donations'.

Investigators have arrived at the Daliuta police branch to look into the illicit sponsorship fees.

Yulin party secretary Li Jinzhu also ordered a new crackdown within the police ranks and vowed to hold those responsible to account.

Mr Wei, the deputy police chief in Shenmu who negotiated the sponsorship deal at the meeting, said the station contacted the association last year over a possible sponsorship arrangement because it had been on a very tight budget due to a lack of government funding.

The mine owners paid 1.13 million yuan in cash at the meeting and promised to transfer the rest later on, Xinhua said.

The coal and coke association also tried to defend the police sponsorship deal, with deputy head Hao Zhichang saying it would not have offered to help if it were not for a spate of armed robberies and murders in the area.

Mr Hao said the association still had the funds and it was up to it to decide how to use the money.