Railways ministry spokesman dismissed from office

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, August 17, 2011
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 Wang Yongping, the spokesman for the ministry dismissed from office

Wang Yongping, the spokesman for the ministry dismissed from office

The China Railway Ministry's chief spokesman has been fired, the ministry announced yesterday.

Wang Yongping, the spokesman for the ministry since 2003, gained wide media exposure after the recent bullet-train crash that killed 40 people and injured hundreds late in July in Wenzhou, one of the deadliest rail accidents in Chinese history.

Wang will be transferred to a Warsaw-based international railway cooperative, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The ministry did not disclose the reason for Wang's dismissal, so it remains unclear whether it was related to his comments at a press conference after the Wenzhou accident.

The 56-year-old spokesman was widely criticized for "improper wording and comments" at the news conference in which he was showered with questions from hundreds of newspaper and television reporters.

"Whether you believe it or not, I believe it anyway," said Wang, in answer to a question about why emergency workers soon buried a damaged train car instead of focusing on saving lives. Wang said the conduct was used to smooth the later rescue.

Wang called it "a miracle" that a toddler was saved from the wreck almost a full day after the rescue work was claimed to be finished. The quotes were widely derided once broadcast countrywide and again yesterday on news of Wang's dismissal.

In a related development yesterday, the government responded to mounting pressure to save the badly crushed leg of the rescued toddler by sending a team of experts to treat the two-year-old girl.

The Health Ministry said a team of four experts was headed to Wenzhou to treat the child, known as "Little Yiyi," who was rescued 21 hours after the July 23 crash that killed her parents. The child has already undergone five operations to remove dead muscle from her leg and seal the wounds.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang yesterday urged a thorough overhaul of China's high-speed railways to prevent major accidents. The checks, to run from mid-August to mid-September, aim to "thoroughly eliminate risks" concerning high-speed railways and "effectively prevent and resolutely curb" major railway accidents to ensure the safety of rail traffic, Zhang said.

"The (Wenzhou) accident cautioned us that safety is the priority for railway development," Zhang said.

The safety checks cover high-speed railways that are both in operation and under construction, according to a State Council statement released last week.

The State Administration of Work Safety will lead the inspection on equipment quality, operational safety, and design and quality of railways under construction, Xinhua reported.

The government will re-evaluate the system safety on rail projects that have received government approval but have not commenced construction. The checks will be carried out by 12 teams composed of government officials and 175 technical experts. Officials from the Railways Ministry are not on the list.

Operations and constructions must be stopped instantly if any potential safety hazards are spotted, Zhang said.

In another development, new train schedules were adopted yesterday with some bullet train services removed. The Shanghai railway operator said passengers can get refunds for the 24 canceled services, most of them running on the Shanghai-Beijing line.

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