China holds over 1,000 officials accountable for environmental violations

Over 1,000 officials have been investigated for environmental violations in four provinces, after receiving thousands of public complaints

Over 1,000 officials have been summoned or held accountable for environmental violations as central environmental inspectors concluded their monthlong visits to four provincial-level regions, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said.

Inspection teams received more than 13,100 complaints from members of the public after they arrived in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Guizhou and Shaanxi and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region in early December, according to a media release from the MEE, where the office of the inspection is based.

Staffed by officials from the MEE, inspection teams are usually led by ministerial-level officials and they report to a central group led by Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

Environmental inspectors dispatched by the Minisrty of Ecology and Environment examine a power plant. (Cai Yang/ Xinhua)

Inspectors handed over 8,000 cases to local authorities for further handling after removing invalid and duplicate ones.

“To ensure all cases the public report can be investigated and rectified and their handling results be made public, each team has designated members to follow up on them,” it said.

As the investigation continues, 683 companies have been punished and 54 people detained, it said, while 546 officials have been summoned and 478 cadres held accountable.

Stressing the people-centered principle, the ministry said inspectors have also rolled out random inspections to check whether violations from previous public complaints have been rectified.

The four regions are the fifth batch covered by the ongoing second round of central environmental inspection, which started in mid-2019. Previously, all regions on the Chinese mainland had been covered after the inspection was initiated in late 2015.

“Inspectors have carried out face-to-face communication with people to hear their opinions and suggestions,” the ministry said.

It outlined 12 typical cases unearthed in the recent inspection. In one of the cases made public on Sunday, Guizhou was criticized for its environmentally unfriendly approach in natural resource exploitation.

In 2020, Xiuwen county in the province claimed to have established 14 green, environmentally-friendly mines. Inspectors found, however, 12 of them not only caused damage to local ecosystems but failed to conduct remediation work as required.

In a quarry called Luohanpo, for example, instead of afforesting the area it mined, the company only covered the area with a green dust screen and also fixed some plastic tree leaves in an attempt to fool inspectors.

Haphazard development of smokestack projects, which jeopardize the country’s endeavor to realize its ambitious climate targets, remains a key concern.

China aims to see carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and realize carbon neutrality before 2060.

The Ningdong Energy and Chemical Base in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, for example, was rebuked for constructing 17 smokestack projects without passing official approvals.

A company named Baoli has been in operation at the base for almost five years, even though it has never passed the government examination for energy conservation.

Source: China Daily (Hong Kong), 11 January 2022.

See Government Announcement: ‘The second round of the fifth batch of central ecological and environmental protection inspectors has fully completed the inspection work’, 9 January 2022.