Officials working for China's government and state-owned enterprises have withdrawn 620 million yuan (78 million U.S. dollars) they had invested in coal mines, following the instructions of the central government, a government official said.
The authorities have so far received reports showing 5,711 officials had invested 700 million yuan in coal mines, even though they are banned by government and party rules from engaging in private business, Sun Huaixin, deputy director of law enforcement for the Ministry of Supervision, was quoted as saying in a report seen Tuesday on the website of the official People's Daily.
He said 144 officials have been penalized for failing to report and withdraw their investments.
The withdrawal of money is a complicated process which needs time, Sun said.
The Chinese government issued an ultimatum in August 2005 requiring government officials and leaders of state-owned enterprises to report their investments in coal mines and to divest their shares by September 22, 2005.
The move was part of the government's efforts to curb rising accidents in the coal mining industry, where small and unsafe coal mines, some of them illegal, often fail to observe safety rules because they are protected by local officials who have interests in the mines.
(Xinhua News Agency June 28, 2006)