THE LAW The Guangdong provincial Government is considering a bill to make any breach of fire safety regulations a criminal offence warranting heavier penalties. But Hong Kong concern groups said China still failed to properly enforce many fire regulations, because of corruption problems. The Guangdong Fire Safety Regulations will be finalised by autumn and will make requirements standard for domestic and overseas enterprises. Instead of the administrative punishments which are now handed out, the new law will stipulate specific penalties for safety violations and legal procedures to try serious offenders. Law drafter Lin Chuguo yesterday said: 'Those serious offenders will probably face criminal charges. The penalty in future will definitely be more severe.' He declined to elaborate. The bill on which the Guangdong Government is conducting an internal consultation is expected to be passed by the standing committee of the provincial people's congress by the end of this year. Fire safety requirements for enterprises vary in different parts of Guangdong, and it is understood enforcement is usually tighter where foreign investment is involved. The province has had the highest casualties and economic losses from fires for the whole of China over the past five years. Authorities tightened fire safety regulations and imposed more frequent checks on factories after the Shenzhen Zhili Handicrafts factory fire in 1993 which killed 84 people and left 25 injured. In the first two months of this year, 289 premises in Guangdong were closed for serious violations of safety standards. Organising secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Wong Ying-yu, said the mainland had made some improvements in factory fire safety, but enforcement of the regulations was still lax in some areas. 'We have learnt that the problems of bribery with inspectors remain,' he said. President of the China and Hong Kong Economic Trade Association, Eddy Li Sau-hung, agreed and said law enforcement should be tightened and fire safety education for workers should be enhanced.