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Guizhou Mine Operator Forced to Cede Control to Local Officials

November 15, 2006

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned of the case of a mine operator forced to surrender control of his mine after he refused to issue shares to local Party and Mines Bureau officials. The case illustrates the kind of rampant official corruption and abuse of power that contributes to China's heavy mining fatalities.

Sources in China told HRIC of a petition submitted to Beijing officials by Liu Jianfa, a peasant from Xiangyang Village in Dahe Township, Tongzi County, Zunyi City, Guizhou Province. According to the petition, Liu's family invested 200,000 yuan in developing a coal mine in 1992, which became operational in 1994. The mine was successful, and Liu Jianfa was granted official permission to expand and upgrade it through increasing investment.

According to the petition, Liu's coal mine became a significant source of income for officials at the county and township level, who were paid fees for their frequent visits to the mine to carry out inspections and "offer guidance." However, some officials wanted a greater share in the mine's profits. In September 2000, local officials began requesting shares in the mine in return for which they promised to facilitate all future applications for permits and inspections and other official procedures. The officials expressing interest in the mine included Dahe Township Party secretary Li Heshu, the township deputy director responsible for managing enterprises, Yan Xiefeng, County Mines Bureau director Wang Jifu and deputy director Huang Qiqian, among others.

Liu says in his petition that he, Liu, felt it was impossible to satisfy the demands of so many officials and refused to issue any shares. The next time Liu requested inspection and certification from the provincial Forestry and Mines Services Bureau, Wang Jifu intimated that unless he was allocated shares in the mine, Liu would not receive the required permits. Liu refused to submit to the threat, and as a result, he was never issued with the permits.

According to Liu Jianfa's petition, in April and May of 2002, county Party secretary Chen Zhigang began auctioning off portions of Liu's mine. On January 17, 2003, Tan Xuezhong, commander of the Dahe Township Public Security Bureau branch, accompanied by PSB officer Liu Anxia, came to Liu's home and demanded that Liu's wife, Linghu Feng, hand over the maps for the mine. They then restrained Linghu and carried out a search of the house. On June 26, 2003, Chen Zhigang brought a Chongqing businessman, Duan Changjun, out to Liu's mine. Chen announced that Liu no longer fulfilled the conditions required to operate the mine, and that he was exercising his official prerogative to take over the mine's management. Duan was then allowed to construct a new mineshaft at the mouth of Liu's mine, cutting Liu off from access to the coal in his mine and making further operations in the mine impossible.

Liu still owed hundreds of thousands of yuan on the 2.1 million yuan he had invested in the mine, and facing financial ruin, the family began petitioning Beijing over the corrupt actions of the local official. After three years of petitioning, Liu and his family have received no official response. Meanwhile, local officials continue to come to Liu's home and threaten to auction off his personal property.

Earlier this month, while Liu was petitioning in Beijing, he was detained by police and sent to the Majialou petitioners detention center. Local Guizhou officials were informed of Liu's detention, and the deputy county chairman, surnamed Zhang, and township people's congress chairman Wang Xingjiang came to Majialou to take Liu from the camp. Wang reportedly told Liu that if he refused to leave Beijing, he would be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Liu Jianfa's case has ramifications beyond the widespread problem of official corruption. On November 11, 2006, Wang Xianzheng, director of the State Administration for Safe Production Supervision, reported that from 2001 to the end of October 2004 there were 188 workplace accidents in China resulting in the deaths of 10 or more people each, an average of one such accident nearly every week. Wang Xianzheng said approximately 8,000 people died in mining accidents during that period, comprising nearly 80 percent of all mining deaths worldwide. Although many factors contribute to this deplorable record, Chinese news reports indicate that official corruption and abuse of power have contributed to many fatal accidents.

HRIC urges the central authorities to examine Liu Jianfa's case as a matter of priority, not only to redress the apparent official interference that has caused him substantial financial loss, but also to ensure the safety of the miners under the current management, as the law requires. HRIC also urges the Chinese authorities to undertake a comprehensive review of official abuse of power and corruption that has contributed to life-threatening conditions in mine operations nationwide.

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