[JURIST] Chinese authorities arrested twelve individuals Thursday for illegally storing dangerous materials that led to the Tianjin warehouse explosions, which killed at least 139 people. Those arrested [Xinhua report] include Yu Xuewei, chairman of Tianjin International Ruihai Logistics Co. Ltd., and Zeng Fanqiang, an employee with a safety firm. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) [official website, in Chinese] has alleged that the safety firm illegally allowed warehouse owner Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics Co. Ltd to pass safety evaluations and obtain hazardous materials without actually meeting the safety requirements. Eleven other officials are under investigation for alleged neglect of duty and abuse of power relating to the explosion of 700 tons of sodium cyanide and other chemicals.
China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate [official website] announced last week that it had opened an investigation [JURIST report] into the causes of the explosion. Several days later, the UN urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government and businesses to keep the investigation transparent. The government has also ordered nationwide inspections of facilities that hold the types of chemicals involved in the explosion. China has a history of imposing severe sentences on officials and others found responsible for high-profile incidents. For example, two individuals were executed [JURIST report] in November 2009 after being convicted of endangering public safety and selling toxic food. China announced regulations, which it said had been in place since August 9, holding those overseeing chemical facilities responsible if they fail to take safety precautions. Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo said that the owners of the hazmat facility that exploded in the city last week used their political connections [JURIST report] get the facility built despite violating a great deal of safety rules. One owner, Doug Shexuan, is the son of a former police chief and the other owner, Yu Xuewei, is a former executive at a state-owned chemical company.