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Sea area management officials under watch
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Sea area management officials involved in illegal activities or guilty of misconduct, such as taking bribes, face being sacked, demoted, or even criminal charges, under a new ruling released yesterday.

The regulation, which takes effect on Tuesday, is "the country's first to systematically stipulate administrative punishments for civil servants who abuse their power in sea area management," Qu Wanxiang, vice-minister of supervision, told a press conference in Beijing.

"It aims to make sure officials perform their duties according to the law," he said.

The 24-stipulation regulation, approved by four central government departments, details various forms of misconduct and their corresponding punishments.

Under the new rule, officials who intervene in the normal approval process for sea-use rights, grant rights to unqualified people or take bribes will be sacked, given a demerit or face criminal charges.

Officials must also avoid:

Approving projects outside marine function zoning rules

Hampering the legitimate rights and interests of sea-area users

Illegally collecting or embezzling sea-use fees

Tardiness in identifying the illegal use of sea areas.

With the rapid growth of the marine economy and growing popularity of reclaiming land from the sea, the number of cases involving official malpractice has increased in recent years, Qu said.

"These cases have seriously harmed the marine environment and resources in some areas," he said.

"If we don't correct them, they will severely disrupt the social and economic order, and impact later generations."

The exact number of officials punished in recent years is not known, he said.

"But the new regulation will definitely help prevent misconduct."

Sun Zhihui, director of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), said the regulation is an important tool for marine protection. It will help the country better control its sea areas, protect and improve the marine environment, ensure the rational exploitation of resources and allow for sustainable development, he said.

(China Daily March 28, 2008)

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