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SPP: 'Too Lenient' Penalties for Official Crimes
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Penalties meted out for dereliction of duty and abuse of power by officials involved in serious workplace accidents have been "too lenient" as a result of sympathy from local governments, a Chinese prosecutor said Wednesday.

Song Hansong, deputy director of the work-related crimes section of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), said that many workplace accidents were directly related to the abuse of power and dereliction of duty, such as authorizing unsafe mines or turning a blind eye to illegal mining activities.

"Many officials have been exempted from prosecution, or given lesser sentences because local courts are usually under pressure from governments to believe the officials didn't intentionally cause the accidents," Song said in an interview.

According to statistics, up to Dec. 20, Chinese prosecutors had investigated 1,383 cases of serious workplace accidents in 2006 and only 629 government employees were prosecuted.

"Most of them were exempted from criminal sanctions or put on probation," said Song.

He warned that some local governments still have not understood the harm of job-related crimes and impede investigations and ask for leniency for indicted officials.

"Some local officials claim that it is simply a 'bad outcome generated by a good intention', rather than a violation of the law," he said.

"Some local governments are reluctant to report and hand over cases to the procuratorates and contented themselves with giving the suspects administrative rather than criminal sanctions," Song said.

The work safety situation in China is still grim. Statistics show that 2,459 serious workplace accidents occurred last year, taking 10,898 lives.

(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2007)

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