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Accountability System Stressed
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Every person, from government ministers down to miners, has a stake in ensuring workplace safety, Li Yizhong, chief of the national work safety watchdog, said yesterday.

"Our goal is to halt the frequent occurrence of major accidents in coal mines and other industries," Li said. "I, as head of State Administration of Work Safety, must carry out my own 'accountability system' before anyone else."

The administration, promoted to a ministerial-level organ early last year, will perform its duty of enforcing the law and supervising work safety to a good standard, Li said.

"The first thing is to implement an accountability system, in which leading government officials and enterprise owners are held responsible (for production safety)," he said.

Li made the remarks to reporters at the Great Hall of the People before attending the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, which opened yesterday.

Beset with a staggering death toll of industrial and road accidents, which reportedly killed 136,755 people last year, China has been striving to find ways to reverse the situation.

Work safety is a topic that is expected to arouse spirited debate among the national legislators and policy-makers who meet this week in Beijing.

In the country's latest coal mine accident, six people were killed and 25 others trapped in a colliery blast in Cixian County of north China's Hebei Province last Thursday, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

Li said that in addition to the responsibility system, all localities should carry out the new quota system for work safety control released by the State Council earlier this year.

The control quota will be used to judge the performance of government officials and related enterprise managers, according to the agency's sources.

The system requires efforts to bring the overall death toll in various kinds of accidents in China down by 3 percent this year.

In particular, the human death toll for each 1 million tons of coal produced should be capped to within 2.624 in 2006, a drop of 7.2 percent from the previous year, according to sources at the work safety watchdog.

In his government work report delivered to national legislators yesterday, Premier Wen Jiabao promised that the central government will again allocate 3 billion yuan (US$370 million) this year to support projects controlling and utilizing coalmine gases, which are blamed for most mining disasters.

The premier also said enterprises must improve technical and quality standards for production safety, and train employees in work safety techniques.

"We will conduct in-depth investigations into cases of dereliction of duty and corruption related to production safety, and severely punish those responsible," he said.

(China Daily March 6, 2006)

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