BEIJING, June 12 Chinese state prosecutors
charged more than 20,000 people with environmental crimes last
year and made more than 7,000 arrests, the official Xinhua news
agency reported on Thursday.
With Beijing hoping to fight its "war against pollution" in
the courts, officials from the Supreme People's Procuratorate
(SPP) said they would strike even harder this year against
polluting firms and the local officials who protect them, Xinhua
Long accused of turning a blind eye to environmental
violations, China has promised to improve the way it enforces
laws, and has also vowed to mete out tougher financial and
criminal punishments for enterprises found guilty of violating
state pollution rules.
Xinhua said Chinese state prosecutors had already set up a
"rapid response mechanism" to deal with environmental crimes. In
March and April alone, they investigated 228 cases and approved
the arrest of 1,375 people.
It said 349 people were put under investigation or
prosecuted in the first four months of 2014 on charges related
to the dereliction of environmental duties, and that the number
of cases had risen to 1,545 since the start of last year.
In many of the cases, government officials "accepted bribes,
abused their power to approve polluting projects, and acted as a
protective umbrella for polluters", Xinhua said, citing Li
Zhongcheng, the deputy head of the SPP.
Beijing has been trying to beef up its monitoring,
enforcement and punishment capacity, and earlier this year
passed amendments to its 1989 Environmental Protection Law that
gave inspectors greater legal backing and a broader range of
weapons to deploy against polluters.
However, experts have claimed that China's courts and local
governments still lack the capacity and manpower to handle the
soaring number of environmental cases.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)