Blaze forces safety review
By CHEUNG PO-LING
THE tragic fire in Xinjiang will put pressure on the State Council to improve safety standards in public places and preventive measures against fire and other hazards.
Political analysts in Beijing said the central Government would also have to implement a system of administrative responsibility to penalise officials for dereliction of duty.
At the moment, there is no central co-ordinating body to monitor safety standards and to investigate disasters.
A ad hoc investigation team was set up yesterday to investigate the Xinjiang inferno, which left at least 300 dead and 150 injured.
Senior officials including Vice-Minister of Public Security, Mou Xinsheng and Vice-President of China's Oil and Gas Corporation Zhang Yungyi flew to Karamay, where a relief centre was set up at the scene.
Ten days ago, 234 people, mostly students, suffocated when a dance hall in northeastern Liaoning province caught fire. A team led by another vice-minister of Public Security, Bai Jingfu, was also at the scene to investigate the incident.
It will be some time before the cause of the two disasters is established.
However, China has no system governing who should be on investigation committees, how investigations should be carried out or whether reports will have to be made public.
Attempts by local governments to save money have been blamed among the causes of China's continuing huge losses from serious fires, which killed 1,300 and injured 2,780 in 27,236 fires across China in the first nine months of this year.
The country was plagued by outdated equipment, dangerous building conditions and an imperfect government inspection system, according to official reports.
After the deadly fire in Fuxin, Liaoning, last month, a fire safety official in Beijing said some managers, who only had profits in mind, were not paying attention to fire prevention.
The owners of entertainment venues and factories, which have mushroomed throughout China as rapid economic growth put more money in the pockets of citizens, may be among the worst offenders.
In Shenzhen several serious fires broke out in factories late last year and earlier this year due to violation of fire regulations.
Since then, Shenzhen municipal officials have undertaken a thorough inspection of factories.
There is no national safety code for factories, entertainment facilities and other public buildings.
So far, no senior officials at central or provincial level have been penalised for the mishaps.
Analysts said this was a retrogression from the 1980s, when a few ministers had voluntarily resigned in the wake of allegations of maladministration.