The State Council named Li Yizhong to head the newly elevated
General Administration of Work Safety (GAWS) on February 28 as part
of the government effort to curb rampant coal mine accidents.
Li moved to the position from his former slot as a deputy
director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration
Mining safety has become a crucial issue for the central
government, with the number of recent accidents causing huge losses
of life and property as well as a negative social impact.
Li admitted that he was somewhat surprised to be named to head
the administration, but he believes he can make a contribution to
solving these problems.
"I have long experience in the petrochemical industry. In the
past 30 years, I have experienced and handled some accidents. When
I was the factory director, I helped to carry the dead bodies of
workers when accidents occurred and went to comfort their relatives
with tears and grief. We have a great responsibility to avoid such
Despite being in office for only a few weeks, he has brought
some new concepts to the job. For example, he proposed that safety
inspections be conducted by specialists, because those carried out
by laypeople become mere visits.
The administration and local governments of 20 major coal
production provinces have organized 105 experts to conduct safety
checks on 45 key mines. An accountability system for safe
production will also be set up.
Li said another focus of their work will be to make occupational
safety laws that regulate production activities.
Further, a risk escrow system is in the works, in which mine
owners will deposit funds to be used for upgrading safety equipment
"China produces nearly 2 billion tons of coal annually. If we
take five yuan for each ton of coal, that will be over 10 billion
yuan (US$1.2 billion). The money can be used to improve
technologies and control potential safety risks," said Li.
He went on to point out that it is a small price to pay.
"Now the mine owners can make 50 yuan (US$6) profit from each
ton of the coal, and some even make 100 yuan. Without safe
production as the foundation, monetary profit is only empty
(China.org.cn by Wang Qian, March 15, 2005)