Fury as rail officials fired after accident get promoted

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am


Two railway officials dismissed from their posts after an accident in Shandong province four years ago in which 72 people died have been appointed to new senior positions, triggering an outcry online.

Chen Gong, former chief of the Jinan Railway Bureau, now heads a state-owned company in charge of construction and the future management of the biggest high-speed rail project in Shandong.

Meanwhile Chai Tiemin, former party secretary of the bureau, is deputy secretary of the China Railway Special Cargo Services Co under the Ministry of Railways, according to 21st Century Business Herald.

The report quoted an anonymous source in the rail industry as saying the ministry was suffering from a shortage of talent and such arrangements were normal.

It wasn't clear how long the two have been in their new positions.

Chen's new company, Qingdao-Rongcheng Intercity Railway, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Chai's company declined to confirm the report, saying it had no relevant information to disclose.

According to mainland law concerning public servants, dismissals are different from terminations and are considered administrative penalties effective for two years.

After a dismissal, officials are demoted and given lower salaries, but after two years their promotions or pay rises should not be affected by previous penalties.

But that didn't make Chen or Chai's new jobs any easier for internet users to swallow.

Many commentaries have called for the men to be banned for life from working in the rail industry or at government agencies.

Critics pointed out that, after similar accidents, Chinese rail bureaucrats have enjoyed relatively easy lives, compared with Japanese officials such as Naotoshi Nakajima, the former president of Hokkaido Railway, who committed suicide after a non-deadly derailment in September last year.

'I bet the faces of Chinese rail bureaucrats are 10 times thicker than those of Japanese officials,' an internet user from Xian , Shaanxi , posted on Sina.com.

Chen and Chai were dismissed after a crash on April 28, 2008, involving the standard-speed passenger train T195 travelling from Beijing to Qingdao .

It derailed and hit another train in Zibo, Shandong. As well as the 72 dead, more than 400 were injured.

An investigation by the State Council showed a communications error during a system upgrade resulted in a speed-limit entry being deleted in the train's computer, causing it to speed through a turn and come off the track.

Professor Zhao Jian , a rail expert with Beijing Jiaotong University, said Chen and Chai were not found directly responsible for the derailing, so their punishment seemed fair and sufficient.

He said: 'A lot of elements had to come together in such an accident, so it is neither fair nor legal to let some individuals take all the blame.

'Their current jobs remain below the levels of their previous posts. It is obvious that their careers were negatively affected by the accident.

'In this case, I worry that internet opinions are too extreme.'