Shenzhen landslide

China’s former top scientist-turned-city party boss rushes back to Shenzhen after landslide

Ma Xingrui, who led nation’s Chang’e-3 lunar programme, took over in Shenzhen in March as part of central government efforts to boost high-tech industry and innovation in booming city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 December, 2015, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 December, 2015, 6:38pm

Scientist-turned city party boss Ma Xingrui rushed back to Shenzhen on Sunday from Beijing, where he was attending an important meeting laying out plans for the nation’s future economic policies, after hearing news of the massive landslide.

It remains unclear if the disaster, which engulfed 33 buildings and left 91 people missing at the Hengtaiyu Industrial Park in the city’s Guangming New District on Sunday afternoon will harm the career of one of the nation’s rising political stars.

Read more: Shenzhen landslide waste dump had been ordered to close over safety fears, documents reveal as search continues for 91 missing

The Ministry of Land and Resources said the landslide, covering more than 100,000 square metres, happened after a dump of earth and construction rubbish, as high as a 20 storey-building, collapsed.

Read more: Shenzhen landslide - in pictures

A nearby section of the arterial West-East Gas Pipeline also exploded, state-run China Central Television reported.

Ma was once China’s top space scientist, and spent much of his career working in the fields of science and aerospace.

He was formerly head of the China National Space Administration and the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, and was in charge of the Chang’e-3 lunar programme.

His appointment to the booming border city was seen as a move by the central government to help boost high-tech industry and innovation of Shenzhen.

Ma and Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin were both in Beijing for the three-day meeting where top Communist Party cadres from central and provincial governments, and key state-owned companies, financial institutions and the military’s top brass, were reviewing the past year’s economic performance and revealing next year’s policies.

On his return to Shenzhen on Sunday night, Ma was said to have visited a local badminton gymnasium that is now serving as an emergency shelter, to talk to some of the more than 400 survivors staying there.

He has pledged to do everything he can to rescue those reported missing and ensure that no similar disasters occur in future, news website reported.

Ma changed his career path in March 2013 after being appointed deputy minister of industry and information technology.

He moved to Guangdong in November of that year, when he became the deputy provincial party secretary overseeing Guangdong’s judiciary and law enforcement.

In March, after months of speculation, Ma replaced Wang Rong as the party chief of special economic zone. His appointment made him one of the rising political stars in a series of personnel changes ahead of the leadership reshuffle of the 19th party congress in 2017.