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Officials Must Be Accountable

The practice of taking responsibility and resigning should become part of the legal framework, says an article in China Business Times. An excerpt follows:

Reports say some officials will resign in the next few days because of their culpability in the Daxing coal mine tragedy in southern Guangdong Province, which claimed the lives of 123 miners.

The public became acquainted with the "take responsibility and resign" system in 2004, a year in which several officials quit following notorious fatal incidents.

Ma Fucai, the former president of the China National Petroleum Corporation, and Geng Zhanbiao, former mayor of Jilin city in northeastern Jilin Province, resigned last year to show they shouldered the blame for catastrophic accidents.

According to a Party rule concerning the matter, officials should resign if serious accidents happen or major accidents continue to occur in their supervised areas.

The city of Meizhou in Guangdong, where the Daxing coal mine is located, had suffered a fatal incident just 20 days before the more serious accident.

Local officials, according to the Party rule, should resign. But that is not certain to happen, and media speculation testifies to that.

Currently, the practice of "take blame and resign" is only part of Party and administrative discipline but not a procedural accountability system.

The practice of "take blame and resign" should become a systematic procedure governed by specific legal provisions.

At present, however, the only existing rule concerning this practice is a Party regulation rather than a law, which leaves leeway when such cases are handled.

Under these circumstances, officials' resignations, in most cases, are ordered by administrative rulings or superior officials.

Clearly, the current "take blame and resign" arrangement is far from satisfactory. It should be carried out under a well-regulated system.

In addition, the public's voice should be heard in cases of negligence or dereliction of duty. The accountability system, to some extent, is the result of interactions between government and the public.

A well-functioning and responsible "take blame and resign" system is vital for establishing an accountable government. Putting this system on a legal footing should be the first step.

(China Daily September 1, 2005)


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