Tianjin News Update: Transparency Sought From Chinese Officials
The Government of China, as well as business owners in the country, should be completely transparent in the investigation of the Tianjin huge explosion. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, said that China has an obligation to generate, assess, update and disseminate information about hazardous substances. The same goes for the business owners, Tuncak said.
Meanwhile, the owners of the company which is allegedly responsible for the blast admitted that they sought out “connections” for a validated license even if the warehouse is close to residential apartments. Furthermore, the owners admitted that they have been running the warehouse without a license from October 2014 to June 2015.
UN calls for transparency in investigating the Tianjin explosion
“The Chinese authorities should also assess whether China’s laws for hazardous substances and wastes are consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to information,” Mr. Tuncak said in a statement.
“The lack of information when needed—information that could have mitigated or perhaps even prevented this disaster—is truly tragic. Moreover, the reported restrictions on public access to health and safety information and freedom of the press in the aftermath are deeply disturbing, particularly to the extent it risks increasing the number of victims of this disaster,” the Special Rapporteur further said.
False ownership, expired license and connections
A certain Li Lian is listed as the chief shareholder of the Tianjin Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd, the company allegedly responsible for the huge Tianjin explosion. However, Xinhua News found out that a certain Yu Xuewei is the real owner of the company and holds 55 percent of the shares. A certain Dong Shexuan, a son of a former police chief for Tianjin Port, on the other hand owned 45 percent of the company’s shares, Xinhua has learned.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Dong admitted that some “connections” he had were able to obtain various fire safety, land, environment and safety certifications even if the warehouse is near residential apartments.
“My guanxi (translated as connections) is in police and fire. When we needed a fire inspection, I went to meet with officials at the Tianjin port fire squad. I gave them the files and soon they gave me the appraisal,” Dong told Xinhua. He however did not reveal whether bribe and extortion are involved in the process.
“The first safety appraisal company said our warehouses were too close to the apartment building. Then we found another company who got us the documents we needed,” Dong further explained.
Xinhua has also learned that the company is operating from October 2014 until June 2015 without a license.
“After the first license expired, we applied for an extension. We did not cease operation because we did not think it was a problem. Many other companies have continued working without a license,” Yu Xuewei told Xinhua.