Wen Jiabao

The culprits will pay for this: Wen

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday visited the site of Saturday's fatal high-speed-train crash and pledged to find the cause of the disaster through an open and transparent investigation that would be 'accountable to the people'.

As Wen was making his promises in Wenzhou , Zhejiang province, dozens of angry relatives of victims protested outside the municipal government building in another part of the city, saying that their demands were falling on deaf ears.

In a sign of the mounting pressure on the central government to give a full account of the cause of the crash and the government's handling of the rescue, Wen gave his personal assurance that the public's concerns would be fully addressed by the State Council's investigation task force.

'Those directly responsible for the accident, as well as relevant senior management, will be held to account to the full extent of Chinese law and regulations,' he said. The investigation would cover all aspects of the high-speed-rail network, including design, technology, the quality of equipment, the train-manufacturing process and the management of the service.

'The investigation will be open, transparent and subject to public scrutiny,' Wen said. 'If, during the investigation, there is any evidence of corruption, we will strictly pursue it according to the law.'

Arriving at the crash site at lunchtime after visiting injured passengers in hospital and meeting relatives of some of the 39 who died, Wen laid a wreath at a freshly prepared floral memorial before addressing journalists gathered beneath the viaduct on which one train ran into the other. He also stated that technological development should not be viewed as 'the quicker, the better'.

The premier then faced a tough question from a China Central Television reporter, who asked whether the crash site - as neat as a garden yesterday - had been cleared of debris too soon for a thorough collection of evidence.

Wen sidestepped the issue, stressing he had ordered rescuers to make 'saving people' their top priority. But he said the railway authorities would still have to give an honest answer to the public. Whether or not the incident was handled well, the most important thing was that the public got to know the truth, he said.

Ahead of Wen's arrival in Wenzhou, Shanghai Railways Bureau officials told investigators yesterday that the crash had been caused by 'design flaws' in signalling equipment that prevented a green light from turning red, Xinhua reported.

Luo Lin, director of the State Administration of Work Safety and the man heading the State Council's investigation of the accident, said a report on the cause of the disaster would be made public in mid-September.

Wen also explained his unusually late visit to the scene: 'I was in my sickbed for the past 11 days,' the 68-year-old said. 'The doctor only reluctantly allowed me to travel today.'

More than 30 representatives of 18 families whose relatives died in the crash gathered outside the Wenzhou government offices yesterday, again calling for a meeting with top officials from the Ministry of Railways. The demonstration was the group's third protest since Monday.