Inspection team shifts to high gear, grills Hebei's top leaders

Updated: 2016-01-07 08:26

By Zheng Jinran(China Daily)

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Inspection team shifts to high gear, grills Hebei's top leaders

Smoke rises from a chimneys of a steel mill on a hazy day in Fengnan district of Tangshan, Hebei province February 18, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]

For the first time, Chinese environmental protection authorities have shown their teeth as part of State power by summoning provincial leaders for a talk-down session over local pollution problems.

The central government's inspection team on environmental protection called the top bosses of Hebei province for a meeting on Tuesday, official media reported.

Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and Tianjin, has many highly polluting heavy industries such as coal power, steel and cement. The province has recently seen repeated hazardous-smog alerts.

Both Zhao Kezhi, provincial Party chief and Zhang Qingwei, governor of the province, were present at the meeting.

Zhao pledged his support for the inspection team's work and to the provincial authorities' resolution to punish the officials found responsible for Hebei's heavy pollution - "especially for those suspected of dereliction and abuse of power".

He made the remarks on Monday at the start of the inspection, which is expected to conclude on Feb 4.

The inspection team's talk with Hebei officials focused on environmental problems in the province.

The provincial authorities are all willing to listen to the inspectors' suggestions and requirements and to step up their effort to narrow the gap between the province's challenging realities and the central government's expectations, Zhao said.

The inspection team has begun to collect information on the sources of pollution via telephone and email as well as by field investigations, and has received about 150 complaint calls daily, Central China Television reported on Tuesday.

In contrast with previous inspections by the Ministry of Environmental Protection at city- and county-level governments and companies, the central government's inspection teams are now focusing on provincial governments and Party committees, according to a ministry statement.

The inspection team's leaders are former and current deputy ministers of environmental protection and officials from the offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council - indicating the team's higher authority.

The inspection results will go directly to the State Council and related ministries and will provide important references for officials' annual performance assessment and allocation of central funding or subsidies for environmental protection.

The CCTV report said that when the team has exposed severe problems involving pollution and behavior of governments officials, it will report to the State Council directly and transfer the cases to personnel organizations, anti-corruption authorities and Party disciplinary organs.

For any problems that are found, Hebei must take targeted measures to control the pollution and report the province's improvement plan to the central government within 30 working days.

Hebei is the first province to undergo the inspection, and the other provinces will also have the inspections from central inspection teams within two years.

CCTV quoted Zhang Shiqiu, director of the Environmental and Economy Institute of Peking University, as saying that the key improvement in the central inspection teams is their focus on the provincial Party committees and government and on any bad behavior such as abuse of power and corruption.

"It's a good time to change the weaker inspection and law enforcement," she said.

But it's more important to build a long-term mechanism for environmental protection to strengthen law enforcement and to upgrade the economic and energy consumption structure, she said.

Hebei has seen severe air pollution since 2013. Six or seven of its cities have consistently been among the 10 most severely polluted cities in the country.