China has sentenced to 15 years in jail a former head of the country’s watchdog for safety at work, saying the official, who was in charge when deadly blasts in 2015 killed nearly 170 people in the city of Tianjin, was involved in graft.
China Central Television (CCTV) said Tuesday that Yang Dongliang, the former head of the State Administration of Work Safety, was found guilty on Friday of abusing his position by accepting bribes to grant contracts to companies.
The charges brought against Yang were related to his time as the vice mayor of northeastern Tianjin. The court in Beijing said the former official had accepted an apartment in a new development complex from a property developer in 1999 and then failed to register with the authorities. The sentence was reduced after Yang confessed and took steps to return bribe money and assets to state treasury.
The sentence could mark a big step in the Chinese government’s attempted crackdown on those violating safety standards, an issue which has triggered huge public concern. The government has pledged to prevent regular mishaps, from factory fires to mine cave-ins, especially after the explosion in August 2015 in the chemical warehouse in Tianjin.
State media said at the time that the company operating the factory did not have the license to handle and store hazardous materials. That was due to a directive issued by Yang’s agency, which allowed those having a sole license for port operations to work with chemicals.
Hundreds of people were injured in the incident while officials ordered mass evacuations over leak of toxic chemicals into the air. Chinese President Xi Jinping also said authorities should learn the lessons paid for in blood.
There was no report in the state media indicating that the court also dealt with the explosions in Tianjin.