China widens criteria to catch pollution crimes
BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhua) -- In an effort to bring rampant pollution under control, China on Friday re-interpreted laws to make it easier to convict polluters and officials responsible for environmental crises.
According to a new interpretation handed down by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), polluters and negligent officials responsible for environmental incidents that cause even a single death can be convicted.
Convictions are also possible in cases where at least three people receive serious wounds, or ten get minor wounds, the interpretations said.
If convicted, the accused face prison sentences of up to three years.
If three or more people are killed in an environmental accident,those responsible can be imprisoned for three to seven years, according to the new interpretations.
The severe prison terms also apply to people convicted of causing environmental accidents that injure more than 30 people, seriously injure at least ten people or cause the evacuation of 10,000 to 50,000 people.
Convicts will also face terms of up to seven years if environmental incidents lead to the spread of contagious diseases such as H5N1 bird flu, SARS, plague, cholera or anthracnose.
Currently, China's environmental laws target people who cause major pollution to the air, water, or soil, people who dump environmentally dangerous foreign waste in China, and officials whose slack administration contributes to major environmental crises.
Prison terms are usually less than three years, with 3-7 year terms reserved for serious violations.
China is waging a fierce battle to control environmental damagecaused by the surging economy, with pollution costing an estimated10 percent of gross domestic product.
In 2005, 97.1 percent of all environmental mishaps involved therelease of pollution, and 27 officials involved in seven pollutionincidents were prosecuted and convicted, according to official figures.
Also in last year, China's former environmental chief Xie Zhenhua resigned over failure in controlling Songhua River pollution, one of China's biggest environmental accidents since 1949, that forced millions of people to live without tap water forseveral days.
Last Sunday, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu called for a national efforts to curb water pollution, saying the environment prices China has paid for rapid economic growth were too high.The government earlier has announced that it will invest 1.4 trillion yuan (175 billion U.S. dollars) in environmental protection between 2006 and 2010. The money will be spent on waterpollution control, urban air quality maintenance, solid waste disposal and soil erosion prevention.
Technorati Tags: china, pollution, crime