China’s Supreme People’s Protectorate [official website] announced [press release] Sunday that it has opened an investigation into the causes of an August 12 explosion in Tianjin. The government has also ordered nationwide inspections of facilities that hold the types of chemicals involved in the explosion. It further announced regulations [Xinhua report], which it said had been in place since August 9, holding those overseeing chemical facilities responsible if they fail to take safety precautions. The explosion involved sodium cyanide [press release] and other chemicals and killed at least 114.
China has a history of imposing severe sentences on officials and others found responsible for high-profile incidents. In May 2011, the country said it would impose the death sentence [JURIST report] and other harsh penalties for officials found liable in food safety cases. In September 2010, officials in China’s Shanxi province in arrested seven individuals [JURIST report], including the executive of a dairy company, after that company’s powdered milk was found to contain melamine. In July 2010, Chinese authorities discovered 64 tons of raw dairy materials [Xinhua report] contaminated with melamine in Qinghai province. In February, Chinese police arrested three individuals [JURIST report] for their roles in the 2008 tainted milk scandal. Two other individuals were executed [JURIST report] in November 2009 after being convicted of endangering public safety and selling toxic food.