Of all high-ranking mainland officials, Luo Lin has the unluckiest and most tiring job. As the head of the State Administration of Work Safety, it is his duty to rush to the sites of deadly industrial and work-related accidents at a moment's notice, day or night. Given that there are hundreds of accidents which kill thousands of workers each year, Luo's mileage should be quite substantial. As one of his primary responsibilities is to investigate and determine the causes of the accidents, his words usually receive extensive coverage in the official media. However, the causes of the accidents - officials or mine operators breaching safety regulations, illegal use of unsafe materials, unqualified workers and lax oversight - might lead one to say he didn't need to be onsite at all. That is more or less what Luo said on Wednesday last week, two days after a deadly high-rise fire, which killed 58 people. Shanghai's deadly fire understandably caused concerns nationwide, not least because the country's biggest metropolis just successfully staged the six-month World Expo with the theme of 'Better City, Better Life', which has now sadly become a regrettable joke. As expected, the central government has ordered nationwide fire-control and safety inspections and promised to crack down on laxity. But many mainlanders cannot help wondering if the inspections could have come sooner. But here is the bigger question: if Luo consistently identifies the same illegal practices as the causes, why do these tragedies continue? Of course, there could be lots of explanations, and here is one which is not discussed at all: deep in the minds of many government officials and unscrupulous businessmen there exists a total disregard of human life. It may sound cruel, but there has been a long tradition of sacrificing the lives of individuals for the so-called greater good in the unwritten rules of the mainland bureaucracy. Talk to some mainland mining officials about the death toll, and their typical answer will be: 'How can mining deaths be prevented?' Or: 'It is no big deal.' This kind of reasoning goes back to the years in which Communist Party-led forces fought against Japanese invaders and later Kuomingtang forces, resulting in the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians. For many People's Liberation Army officers who saw so much bloodshed in battle and who later became officials in the early years of the People's Republic, the death tolls from industrial accidents became abstract numbers. Until recently, deadly accidents were always covered up for the sake of stability and production. Relatives of a dead workers would receive only several tens of thousands of yuan in compensation. In fact, the compensation for a working horse or donkey killed in an accident was several times that given to the family of a worker killed in an accident. Only under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao has compensation for the death of a worker risen to between 200,000 (HK$233,000) to 250,000 yuan. There is a popular joke among mainland officials warning one another not to write diaries in case their most intimate thoughts become the most damning evidence against them. It started after Han Feng, a Guangxi tobacco official, was sacked and arrested for taking bribes in March. Han got into trouble after a string of explicit entries allegedly written by him were posted online the previous month. They gave detailed accounts of sex with colleagues, the amount of bribes he took and prolonged drinking sessions in 2007 and 2008. That helps explains the internet frenzy over the diary of a police chief in Enshi, Hubei . The original post appeared on the Tianya online forum on November 12. Although the author was identified only as T in the diary entries spanning 1999 to August this year, it was quickly established that T was Tan Zhiguo, director of the city Public Security Bureau. They gave details of his relationship with his bosses, colleagues and business associates and several women. They included details such as when he was given 2,000 yuan wrapped in a gift box, he wrote, 'honestly, this is nothing'. In another entry, he allegedly wrote about offering 300,000 yuan to his boss for his promotion and how both men visited prostitutes. Tan reportedly denied to police that he had written the diary, but several people mentioned in it confirmed that the events in which they had been named were true.