Parcel bombs in southern Chinese province of Guangxi show need to enforce laws on courier services

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 1:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 1:09am

It takes a deranged and callous mind to put explosives in a parcel as an act of spite. The people in the southern Chinese region of Guangxi who earlier this month opened 17 packages delivered by courier were unaware of the bombs inside. Ten were killed and more than 50 injured. Nor should they have been anticipating the deadly contents, as strict security measures were in place following similar incidents in the past. A tragedy could have been prevented had the rules not been flouted.

The 33-year-old suspect, a quarry owner, is dead, so the reason for the attacks is unclear. There are claims the bombs were related to a dispute over a road in the Liucheng county township of Dapu, where most of the parcel bombs were delivered by express post. The local government office, a supermarket, hospital, prison and bus terminal were among the targets. But given how commonplace courier services have become on the mainland thanks to the popularity of e-commerce - 14 billion packages were delivered last year and the number is rapidly growing - it is not surprising that the method was used to carry out the attacks.

Previous parcel bombs have prompted tight regulations for sending packages. The mandatory checks by postal workers to ensure that banned items, among them explosive materials, were not enclosed were not carried out. Security cameras required under new rules introduced last month failed to detect anything untoward. Another requirement coming next year that senders of parcels have to show their identity cards and register with their real names would have made finding the perpetrator easier, but not prevented disaster.

The threat of terrorism alone is cause for postal companies to be on the alert. Attacks by extremists from Xinjiang have been carried out beyond the autonomous western region and the spread of supporters of the radical Muslim group Islamic State to Asia is alarming. Other parcel bomb attacks have been small-scale, but the horrific scenes of destruction caused by those in Guangxi - a five-storey building partly collapsed - are bound to inspire copycats. There are plenty of disasters, stemming from a lack of oversight of laws and rules, which can reinforce a belief that attacks will succeed.

Rules are ineffective without enforcement. Violators have to be punished with an eye on setting an example. The rising volume of parcels makes for a challenge, but there will be more tragedies if the now-strengthened regulations are ignored.