Two environmental protection officials in North China's Shanxi Province have been sentenced to imprisonment for neglect of duty, according to the Beijing-based China News Service.
Zhao Zhangxin, former director of the environmental protection bureau of Yangcheng County was sentenced to six months in prison and one year on probation, and Zhao Yuku, the former vice-director, to eight months in prison, the news service reported yesterday.
They were accused of having failed to stop the illegal activity of a chemical plant in the county, which discharged toxic wastes into the drinking water system of a village, the report said.
According to the report, in April and May in 2000, 79 villagers in Dongyuzhuang village in the county were poisoned by the village's polluted drinking water, 49 of whom were hospitalized for serious conditions.
The accident caused an economic loss of more than 1.4 million yuan (US$170,000).
Investigators found that the pollution of the town's water system with toxic chemicals was the cause of the poisoning.
Further investigation showed that pollution was caused by the wastewater discharged from the Shanxi Xinlianyou Chemical Industrial Corporation.
In June of that year, Dongyuzhuang villagers filed a lawsuit against the officials involved for dereliction of duty.
After investigation, the Yangcheng Procuratorate confirmed that Zhao Zhangxin and Zhao Yuku had not fulfilled their duty from the time the company selected its location to the time of the poisoning.
They had not properly overseen the location of the plant and the discharge of its wastewater.
The procuratorate believed the two had not properly fulfilled their duty and brought them to court.
( China Daily August 6, 2002)