[JURIST] A UN human rights expert called Thursday on the Chinese government and relevant businesses to ensure transparency [press release] in the investigation of a chemical disaster in Tianjin, including both the causes and effects of the explosion. “The Chinese authorities should also assess whether China’s laws for hazardous substances and wastes are consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to information,” said the Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak [official profile]. The Special Rapporteur noted that under international human rights standards, China has an obligation to generate, assess, update and disseminate information about hazardous substances, and businesses have a responsibility respect human rights, including communicating information to the public effectively. Tuncak will present a special report on the right to information in the context of hazardous substances to the UN Human Rights Council on September 16.
China’s Supreme People’s Protectorate announced this week that it had opened an investigation [JURIST report] into the causes of the explosion. 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. The explosion involved sodium cyanide and other chemicals and killed at least 114.