Posts Tagged ‘Ruihai Logistics’

Public Safety Nightmare: China’s three worst man-made accidents this year have city residents dreading “What disaster is next?”

December 22, 2015

Moving to a first-tier urban centre on the mainland once guaranteed a better life, but not any more

By Li Jing
South China Morning Post

The three worst man-made accidents on the mainland this year all took place in its largest cities, where planners struggle to accommodate an expanding middle class and waves of migrant workers.

The tragedies have led some mainlanders to ask why China’s leading urban centres – which are supposed to provide their residents with a better life – have become so dangerous.

China started the new year on a horrific note. At least 36 people were killed in a stampede on the Bund in Shanghai on December 31. Overcrowding and a lack of safety measures were blamed.

READ MORE – Firm that won bid for Shenzhen dump transferred contract, Chinese media says

Another blow came on August 12 when explosive materials stored at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin ignited, triggering twin blasts that shattered windows as far as 2km away. The official death toll was more than 170, with first responders accounting for many of the fatalities. Investigators found that the owner of the facility, Ruihai International Logistics, had contravened safety regulations.

Smoke billows behind rows of burned-out cars at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, on August 13. Photo: AFP

Then on Sunday, a construction-waste dumping site collapsed, sending a wave of mud across an industrial park in Shenzhen. Seventy-six people remained missing.

Rescuers continue to pick through the debris in the hopes of finding survivors perhaps trapped among the 33 destroyed buildings. The park sits on the edge of Shenzhen, the mega city held out as a shining example of the benefits of economic reform.

“Two years ago, a Beijing resident drowned in his car when the city was hit by a thunderstorm,” one person wrote on Weibo. “This year, people strolling on a Shanghai street were crushed to death. In Tianjin, one could be killed while just sleeping at home. And as 2015 nears its end, some people are buried by mud and rocks while at work! When will the cities become safe?”

A general view showing fire and smoke after an explosion at a paraxylene chemical plant in Zhangzhou, China’s Fujian province, 06 April 2015. Three people were injured in a chemical plant blast that the factory produces paraxylene (PX), an industrial chemical used for making fiber and plastics. As many as 783 firefighters and 131 fire engines are battling the fire, according to the media. EPA/LIU HAIBIN

READ MORE – Our wedding is in 10 days. Why is this happening?: Anguish of woman whose fiancé is missing after huge Shenzhen landslide

Another commentator said: “These cities are the most modernised, and are the most successful examples of China’s reform and opening-up. But the rare and unprecedented accidents this year are raising the question: where will development lead our country?”

Qi Zhiqiang, a lecturer on environment, health and safety at Nanjing University, called the Shenzhen landslide a “city’s shame”. It was a “human-made disaster” that had causes that were “kept in the dark for a long time”, he said.

The three accidents all bear similar hallmarks – poor management oversight, lax planning and weak enforcement of existing laws.

In the Bund stampede, most of the victims were young people in their 20s going to watch a New Year light show. Government agencies under Huangpu district were later blamed for failing to alert the public that the show had been called off.

The crowds that gathered on the Bund in Shanghai the night of the deadly stampede on December 31, 2014. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The local police department was accused of severely underestimating the expected turnout – the crowd swelled to 310,000 people at one point, but only 600 police officers had been deployed to maintain order.

In the Tianjin disaster, Ruihai Logistics was found to have handled dangerous chemicals without a licence, state media reported. Company executives admitted they had made use of their connections to get fire safety approvals.

Similarly in Shenzhen, mainland media has reported the company that won the bid to build and operate the waste dump was not qualified for the job.

Central authorities have yet to publish the investigation result of the Tianjin blasts, more than four months of the accidents.

Luwei Property Management Company did not list handling waste dumps in its business registration but nevertheless won the bid, and contracted the project out to another firm, Yixianglong Investment Development Company. The property management company has won numerous government contracts over the years.

Mainland media also reported that the permit to run that site, classified as a temporary dump site, expired in February. A deputy director of Yixianglong was taken away by the police yesterday .

In the wake of such man-made disasters, the central government has been quick to announce responsible parties would be punished. But at the same time, the leadership has been clamping down on the spread of information about large public incidents on the internet.

Some people have expressed fears that weak government accountability will only lead to more such accidents in the future.

“What startles me most is you no longer see the same anger and questions online after the Shenzhen landslide. The public just seems to go along with their own life now,” said a Shanghai resident.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1893989/residents-chinas-big-cities-now-wonder-when-disaster-will-next

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a chemical plant of Shandong Runxing Chemical Technology Co. is on fire following an explosion in Zibo, east China’s Shandong Province, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. The explosion at the plant came ten days after a similar disaster at a chemical warehouse killed 121 people. (Guo Xulei/Xinhua via AP) NO SALES

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A large hole is seen on the ground in the Chinese port city of Tianjin Saturday. At least 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured in Wednesday’s explosions.
A large hole is seen on the ground in the Chinese port city of Tianjin Saturday. At least 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured in Wednesday’s explosions. EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Media Directives From China’s Government — Following Tianjin Port Explosions — “Do Not Allow Negative Influence on China’s Image”

August 14, 2015

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The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of one issuing body has been partially omitted to protect the source.

Cyberspace Administration of China: Standard sources must be used regarding the explosions in Tianjin’s Tanggu Open Economic Zone. Use only copy from Xinhua and authoritative departments and media. Websites cannot privately gather information on the accident, and when publishing news cannot add individual interpretation without authorization. Do not make live broadcasts.

Tianjin Propaganda Department: Editors and reporters for city TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, and new media work units, including announcers and anchors, must absolutely not privately post to Weibo or WeChat friend circles about the explosions.

Internet Propaganda Office of [Province Withheld]: Top Priority—Remove news and images from the explosions in Tianjin’s Tanggu Open Economic Zone from headlines and recommendations. Tidy up posts. Do not post articles that are not from Xinhua. If such articles have already been posted, please push them to the back of the stage. (August 13, 2015) [Chinese]

A warehouse explosion in the port area of Tianjin on Wednesday left at least 50 dead and more than 700 injured. While most discussion on social media has proceeded unhindered, some contentincluding rumors and criticisms of the response has been curtailed.

One target of the censors, BBC Monitoring reports, was online disgust at the apparent obliviousness of a local TV station which continued to broadcast Korean dramas throughout the immediate aftermath:

“I was watching Tianjin TV at 8am and they were still showing ‘First Wives’ Club’ – I could barely breathe! I feel as though this country’s media… shows an inhumane response to emergencies,” posted “Xing zhi a fei” on Weibo.

[…] User “Guilin’s Xu Chunsheng” commented that the story “should be constantly updated, not grinding to a halt. What is the media doing?”

Another Weibo user, “Ying Tian Lan” called the TV station “disgraceful”.

Netizen “Xinjing Ziran Hao” said it was as though the explosion had “shaken the world, and yet Tianjin TV has not even felt a tremor.” [Source]

In a now-removed post, however, Weibo user @SONGPAO claimed that the station had actually sent 100 staff out to report, but was barred from using any of its own material and had to turn it over to CCTV.

The state-owned Global Times acknowledged such protests, but insisted that “the idea that [local authorities] wanted to tone down the reporting and even cover it up must be eliminated”:

At the start of the incident, the public directed major complaints and accusations toward the Tianjin government and media for the slow and inadequate reporting of the explosion. For example, Tianjin TV was still broadcasting Korean soap operas 10 hours after the incident. Such chaos is unavoidable at the beginning of a sudden crisis. The Tianjin government must take critical feedback and ensure it can release accurate and timely information. The idea that they wanted to tone down the reporting and even cover it up must be eliminated.

Despite these doubts and criticisms, generally speaking, the government has dealt with the crisis efficiently and in a transparent manner. Up till this afternoon, the fire is still burning, and the priority should be rescuing the injured and extinguishing the blaze as soon as possible. Now the whole incident has been put under the scrutiny of the media, and any further information will be given to the public through government and media channels. The public’s right to know needs to be defended and reinforced while the government deals with the disaster. The public can have a better understanding about what kinds of demands for information at the beginning of a disaster are appropriate, and what information still needs time to be published. Once the government and the public can reach an agreement on this, controversies will be greatly reduced. [Source]

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that journalists from several foreign and domestic organizations say they have been prevented from covering the incident. State news agency Xinhua, though, has focused on one particular claim by CNN. The network reported that Chinese authorities had interrupted its reporting outside a Tianjin hospital, but later admitted that those who intervened were “upset friends and relatives of victims killed and injured,” as The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs had previously stated. Earlier tweets claiming official obstruction have now been deleted. Xinhua’s Chen Shilei argued in an op-ed that the retraction was inadequate:

In an age marked with virus-like dissemination of information, the inaccurate reporting about the incident, for whatever purpose, has exerted negative influence on China’s image, with TV audience, Twitter followers and netizens questioning what was behind the blocking of reporting.

From the perspective of news ethics, reporters should respect the injured and families of victims when they cover a deadly incident like the Tianjin blasts, in which at least 44 people were killed and 521 hospitalized. This is what the CNN reporter Will Repley [sic] was trying to do, when he agreed to stop recording after several men asked him to.

[…] However, how could the anchor easily conclude that it was Chinese “security and officials” who stopped Repley from reporting? How could he easily misinterpret the blocking of reporting as a usual case in China? The reason is inseparable from CNN’s deep-rooted prejudice against China.

It needs to point out that this is not the first time that CNN has made prejudiced reporting on China. From the March 14 Tibet riots in 2008 to the Kunming terror attacks in March 2014, the CNN has had an array of records of inaccurately reporting these incidents. [Source]

State media and many ordinary Chinese accused CNN and other media organizations of distorted coverage of the 2008 Tibetan unrest. The network denied these charges, but did issue an apology for commentator Jack Cafferty’s description of the government as “basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” In 2013, Global Times urged CNN to “have some self respect” after it published an op-ed asking whether a jeep attack on Tiananmen Square “was a well-prepared terrorist act or a hastily assembled cry of desperation from a people on the extreme margins of the Chinese state’s monstrous development machine.”

chinadialogue, meanwhile, highlights public debate over the transparency and integrity of environmental impact assessments in the wake of the blast:

An environmental impact assessment for Ruihai, produced in 2013 by the Tianjin Academy of Environmental Protection Sciences, shows that the majority of products to be stored in the company’s warehouse were dangerous or flammable.

These presented environmental risks during transportation or storage, the assessment added, but it concluded that the risk of an accident was within acceptable limits.

As part of that report, 130 questionnaires were issued in the surrounding area; 100% of respondents said the site was suitable; around 52% were supportive of the proposed project’s measures for environmental protection; while the remainder expressed no opinion. However it is unclear who these respondents were.

Since Wednesday’s explosion many local residents have told media they never saw any questionnaires. In many cases around China, the public have objected strongly to chemical plants near their homes. [Source]

For more on China’s “public opinion guidance” in the wake of major tragedies, read a recent essay by China Media Project’s David Bandurski, via CDT.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.

Company at centre of China’s Tianjin port blasts ‘may have exploited regulatory loopholes’

August 14, 2015

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State media says regulatory gaps in the industry and business licensing procedure may have allowed firm to operate warehouse near residential area

By Zhuang Pinghui
South China Morning Post

Regulatory gaps in the hazardous material industry and the business licensing procedure may have allowed Ruihai International Logistics to build and operate its warehouse near a residential area in China’s port city of Tianjin, Chinese state media reported on Friday.

A column in the overseas edition of People’s Daily noted that national standards made no mention of a minimum distance separating a dangerous goods facility from other buildings.

The only instance where a safety zone is mentioned is in a technical specification from 2001. It requires such warehouses to be at least 1km from public buildings, transportation lines or factories. But a highway, light rail line and residential area were all about 600 metres from the Ruihai Logistics’ facility in the Binhai New Area, and all were damaged in the explosions.

“The country has never released safety distances for plants with hazardous chemicals, allowing indecent companies to take advantage of the loophole,” said the article, which was later deleted from the media outlet’s website.

An aerial photo of the extent of damage caused by the blasts. Photo: Xinhua

The other major concern raised by the article dealt with official oversight and enforcement. Ruihai Logistics’ business registration mentions only storage of general goods, according to the article. But Gao Huaiyou, deputy director of the Tianjin Administration of Work Safety, said in a Friday briefing that the company had obtained qualification for temporary storage of hazardous goods while waiting for customs clearance.

Under China’s murky, crisscrossing network of agency oversight, authority may have also rested elsewhere. The People’s Daily article said Ruihai Logistics was registered in the Tianjin Dongjiang Bonded Port Area and was eligible for a business permit issued by the port authority, instead of the work safety authority.

The port authority usually issues business permits for storage of hazardous chemicals together with a port business licence. But the licence is for storage only and companies are subject to inspection by the local work safety authority if there is any unpacking or testing of the goods.

The article also pointed out that the warehouses were situated far from the port and technically should have been under the administration of the work safety authority. In addition, both the work safety authority and urban planning authority are involved in the approval process constructing such a facility. But the work safety agency is not consulted when residential or other non-industrial buildings are approved for an area.