China jails hundreds of officials for pollution violations

FILE PHOTO: Cooling towers emit steam and chimneys billow in an industrial zone in Wu'an, Hebei province, China, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has jailed hundreds of officials for failing to tackle environmental violations uncovered during inspections last year, the environment ministry said in the latest round of the “war on pollution” led by President Xi Jinping.

A total of 4,305 officials in 10 provinces and regions had been held to account for failing to rectify violations, with some of them facing fines and even jail time, the ministry said late on Monday.

Beginning at the end of May, central government inspectors started re-examining thousands of violations uncovered during the nationwide environmental audit, and found that many of the problems had not been properly resolved.

They have already accused local governments and state-owned enterprises across the country of conducting “perfunctory” or even “fraudulent” rectifications.

Total fines of 510 million yuan ($77.13 million) had already been issued in the 10 regions, which include the two biggest steel producing provinces of Hebei and Jiangsu, as well as Yunnan and Ningxia in the far west and Guangdong in the southeast, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

This round of inspections involved a total of 28,076 violations. The ministry said 464 officials had been subject to administrative or criminal detention.

China is in the fifth year of its war on pollution and Xi vowed in May to use the full might of the ruling Communist Party to tackle longstanding environmental problems.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Stephen Coates