China jails 49 for catastrophic Tianjin factory blasts

Photo taken on Nov. 9, 2016 shows the trial scene at a court in north China's Tianjin Municipality. Courts in Tianjin on Wednesday sentenced 49 people to prison, including 24 company managers and staff members as well as 25 government officials found guilty of various crimes that led to the city's warehouse blasts, which killed at least 165 people in August 2015. Photo: Xinhua

Courts in north China's Tianjin Municipality on Wednesday sentenced 49 people to prison, including 24 company managers and staff members as well as 25 government officials found guilty of various crimes that led to the city's warehouse blasts, which killed at least 165 people in August 2015.

The suspects were tried by the Second Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin and nine other grass-roots courts from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9. As the rulings were made on Wednesday, all suspects agreed with the verdicts and expressed remorse, sources with the Higher People's Court of Tianjin said.

On Aug. 12, 2015, a series of explosions ripped through a warehouse of Ruihai Logistics Co. Ltd. (Ruihai Logistics) in Tianjin Port, leaving 165 people dead, eight missing, and 798 injured. The blasts also damaged 304 buildings, 12,428 cars, and 7,533 containers, incurring economic losses amounting to 6.87 billion yuan (1.01 billion US dollars).

The court ruled that the blasts were an accident with "extraordinary seriousness," with Ruihai Logistics bearing the main responsibility. The company ignored industrial safety rules and violated municipal district planning by illegally setting up a hazardous materials storage yard, the court ruling says. "Management was chaotic, and safety problems persisted."

Officials of various government agencies involving transportation, ports, customs, industrial safety, city planning, and maritime affairs were also responsible for the accident due to dereliction of duty and abuse of power, the court added. The third responsible party was Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng, a company that provided counterfeit safety evaluation papers to Ruihai Logistics.

Yu Xuewei, chairman of Ruihai Logistics, was found guilty of bribing port administration officials with cash and goods worth 157,500 yuan (23,333 US dollars) to obtain a certificate to handle hazardous chemicals at the port.

Yu was convicted of illegal storage of hazardous materials, illegal business operations, causing incidents involving hazardous materials, and bribery. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Yu was ordered to pay a fine of 700,000 yuan (103,704 US dollars).

The deputy chairman and general manager of Ruihai Logistics and three other employees of the company were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life. Seven Ruihai Logistics staff members directly responsible for the incident were sentenced to between three and 10 years in prison.

Eleven people with Tianjin Zhongbin Haisheng, the company that provided Ruihai Logistics counterfeit safety reports were also jailed.

Twenty five officials, including head of Tianjin Municipal Transportation Commission Wu Dai, were sentenced to prison terms lasting from three to seven years for dereliction of duty, abuse of power, and accepting bribes.


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