[JURIST] Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo said Wednesday that the owners of the hazmat facility that exploded [JURIST report] in the city last week used their political connections get the facility built despite violating a great deal of safety rules. One rule barred storage of hazardous chemicals within 3,200 feet of residential areas, much farther than the facility was located [Xinhua report]. 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. The two men purposefully concealed their ownership in the company so that they could secretly use their personal relationships with government officials to obtain licenses for building the facility. 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. Last week the government 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. 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.