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China sacks Tianjin port chief after blasts: People's Daily

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 12:39
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Chairman of Tianjin Port Group Zheng Qingyue is pictured during a news conference after explosions last week at Binhai new district of Tianjin, China, on Aug 19, 2015.

[SHANGHAI] China has fired the president of Tianjin Port Group and plans to prosecute him for dereliction of duty, state media said on Wednesday, almost three months after huge chemical blasts at the northern port managed by the firm killed more than 160 people.

Anger over safety standards is growing in China, after three decades of swift economic growth marred by incidents from mining disasters to factory fires, and President Xi Jinping has vowed that authorities will learn the lessons paid for with blood.

Zheng Qingyue, who was chairman of the group's listed unit, Tianjin Port Holdings, will also be removed from his positions at the city's international trade and shipping service centres, the Tianjin government said on its website.

It was not possible to reach Mr Zheng for comment.

The People's Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, said Zheng, his assistant Li Hongfeng, and the deputy chief of the firm's safety bureau, Zheng Shuguo, would face criminal prosecution for dereliction of duty.

Officials at Tianjin, which is the 10th busiest port in the world, and located not far from the capital, Beijing, had said Zheng was being investigated.

The People's Daily said government investigations found the port operator's management had neglected safety oversight duties, and blamed it for poor regulation of Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics Co Ltd, which had operated illegally and violated safety rules.

Ruihai Logistics owned the warehouse where the explosions took place, and was found to have been handling dangerous chemicals without a licence. Company executives also told state media they made use of their connections to get fire safety and environmental approvals.

On Monday, China's state prosecutor said it had approved the detention of the former head of the work safety regulator, who was removed shortly after the explosions.

REUTERS