12 Officials Fired Over Earthquake Response

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) -- China fired 12 officials for dereliction of duty and misuse of earthquake relief, a top anti-corruption official said Monday.

Supervision Minister Ma Wen said her department had received 1,178 complaints involving officials' response to the May 12 quake in Sichuan province and had dealt with more than 1,000 of them.

Administrative punishments were handed out to 43 officials, the most serious being removal from office, Ma said at a news conference. She didn't specify when the officials had been fired.

"Quite a number of the reports exposed the misuse of tents, food and other relief supplies," Ma said. "Some revealed the slow reaction and poor ability of a few cadres."

The quake killed nearly 70,000 people and made millions homeless, leaving the government with the massive task of finding them temporary housing.

While no major quake-related corruption scandals have been revealed, shortages of tents and other temporary housing have led to frequent allegations of favoritism.

Ma, who also heads the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention, repeated promises to investigate possible graft in the building of schools, large numbers of which collapsed in the quake, killing thousands of students.

She said those found to have violated laws and regulations would be punished, but gave no deadline for the completion of investigations or indicate if wrongdoing had been uncovered.

Engineers and parents of students killed have pointed to weak cement, a lack of iron reinforcement, and the favoring of flashy designs over solid construction as signs that building funds may have been siphoned off.

Parents at one school in Sichuan said officials had promised to release the results of the investigation on June 20, but appeared to be stalling for time. In some places, parents have been harassed, threatened or physically restrained to prevent them from organizing or airing their complaints, which have been largely ignored by China's state-controlled media.

Also at Monday's news conference, Vice Finance Minister Liao Xiaojun said the central government has earmarked nearly $73 billion in funds for disaster relief and rebuilding. Central government departments have been told to cut spending by five percent to free up additional funds, something Liao said would bring in another $218 million.

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