The transfer of Zhang Genhu, director of the Work Safety Administration of disaster-prone Shanxi Province in north China, to head the province's literary federation has stirred controversy.
Although administration officials denied the appointment of its new head on January 10 had any link with the five recent production accidents in 20 days in the country's major industrial province, public doubts still mounted.
The December 31 leak of about nine tons of aniline into a river in the province's Changzhi City by Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group contaminated downstream water in neighboring Henan and Hebei provinces, resulting in a water supply crisis. Changzhi authorities delayed reporting the leak for six days.
Also, a subsidiary of the China Railway Tunnel Group purposefully concealed a fatal railway tunnel explosion that occurred on December 25 in Shanxi's Linfen City, killing eight people.
On January 7, seven workers died in a gas explosion in a coal mine in Shanxi's Xiyang County.
While investigations are underway, the change of the province's top safety supervisor proceeded quietly and smoothly. Local authorities said it was a "normal" government reshuffle ahead of the provincial leadership transition.
The move appeared to run counter to the country's official accountability mechanism by merely transferring a cadre to an unrelated post without an announcement explaining accountability for the accidents.
While growth at all costs still dominates some local ruling minds, work safety supervision too often becomes of secondary importance, officials noted.
Although China has strengthened efforts to close unlicensed and small coal mines and enhanced safety measures in other production fields, accidents are still frequent.
Eleven work safety administration heads have been removed from their posts, demoted or prosecuted in the past six months. Among them, "Brother Watch" Yang Dacai, head of the Work Safety Administration in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, is currently under investigation. His suspiciously expensive watch collection and large amount of undeclared bank savings made him a corruption suspect.
Local governments have been advised by top officials to earnestly pursue the "scientific outlook on development," which centers on people and the quality of GDP growth.