China Targets 120 for Punishment Over Tianjin Warehouse Blasts

  • Port executives, bosses in charge of blast site among named
  • Explosions killed 165 people, caused $1 billion in damages

A Chinese government panel recommended punishing more than 120 people, including executives at a state-owned port operator, over fatal explosions that leveled a warehouse area in Tianjin, one of the world’s largest cargo hubs.

Those targeted for punishment by State Council investigators included five "minister-level" officials and 13 executives from the company that owned the warehouse site, Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics Co. Ltd., the State Administration of Work Safety said Friday. Local governments violated or failed to enforce laws, while some officials took bribes, according to the team’s 107-page report.

Among those named in the report were Zhang Lili, chairwoman of Tianjin Port Group Co. and a member of Tianjin’s municipal party committee, and Yuan Baotong, vice president of the company. Both were stripped of their party positions. The report didn’t specify which officials named held ministerial ranks.

The chemical-fueled explosions in August represented one of China’s worst recorded industrial disasters and exposed lax oversight during the country’s breakneck economic boom. The blasts also called new attention to widespread corruption at a time when authorities under President Xi Jinping are jailing corrupt Communist Party cadres and demanding accountability from local officials.

165 Killed

The explosions killed at least 165 people and injured almost 800, causing direct economic losses of 6.9 billion yuan ($1 billion), according to the report. Another eight people are still missing. Arson was not a factor in the blasts, according to the report. The findings were released before the annual Lunar New Year holiday, when China all but shuts for a week as hundreds of millions of people travel home.

Chinese prosecutors last week announced arrests of 22 people in connection with the explosions, including Chairman Yu Xuewei and Vice Chairman Dong Shexuan, of Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Dong is the son of the former Tianjin port police chief, according to Xinhua.

In August, the party’s top anti-graft agency said that Yang Dongliang, the former head of State Administration of Work Safety and a former deputy mayor of Tianjin, was under investigation for “serious discipline violations.”

— With assistance by Tian Chen

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