China to get tougher on eco-unfriendly officials

State Council says economic growth no longer the only focus of cadres, who will be held 'responsible' for consumption of natural resources and environmental harm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 1:04am

China has vowed to impose tougher punishments on officials whose decisions are found to have caused ecological damage.

The State Council, the mainland’s chief administrative authority, said the officials would be held responsible for their “lifetime”.

A document released by the cabinet on Tuesday said the consumption of resources, environmental damage and ecological competitiveness would all be carefully assessed by officials and their weight would be “significantly increased” so that the pursuit of economic growth would no longer be the only target of cadres.

Local governments at all levels now faced a “red line”, the document said, which meant they would need to ensure that there was no further deterioration in the quality of air, water and soil in their respective regions.

Any official that was found to have caused severe damage to the environment and natural resources would be held accountable – even after they had left the posts – and would no longer gain promotion.

Xu Shaoshi , director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said resources and the environment had become one of the biggest obstacles holding back China’s efforts to become a “moderately prosperous society” – one of President Xi Jinping’s four political visions.

People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, called building “ecological civilisation” a political task for party cadres and government officials.

The term was first coined by former president Hu Jintao in 2007 to describe achieving a balance between growth and conservation.

The idea of “ecological civilisation” was endorsed at a key party meeting in 2013.

In a communique issued after the party’s Third Plenum in 2013, pledges were made to reform the nation’s environmental governance mechanism, including putting market-driven price tags on natural resources.

However, the State Council has admitted in recent documents that so far progress had been limited.

“China’s safeguarding of the environment still lags behind its economic status, with prominent problems such as limited resources and severe pollution, which have become major obstacles to sustainable growth”, the state-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.