In a bid to improve protection of the environment, China has tightened related accountability measures for Party and government officials, and those found responsible for pollution will be punished beyond their terms.
The new set of guidelines－released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council－elaborate on situations in which officials would be held accountable for pollution. Officials would face punishment not only for causing serious environmental damage, but also for trying to interfere in actions that would lead to consequences.
For example, if a decision by local Party and government officials seriously violated planning on environmental protection, those officials would be held accountable.
Wang Yi, head of the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the new guidelines help enhance consideration of the ecological environment among officials and would affect their decisions.
The guidelines also emphasise that Party and government officials will be punished for the rest of their lives if they cause serious damage to the ecological environment and resources, even if they had since been appointed to new positions or promoted, or even if they had retired.
If supervisory agencies fail to conduct investigations, they will also be held responsible. Furthermore, those who are suspects in any such crime should be handed over to judicial authorities in a timely manner.
Xinhua News Agency quoted an anonymous senior official from the Organisation Department of the CPC Central Committee who said that the major reason some officials fail to fulfil their responsibilities and subsequently get away with it is the lack of a system to deal with such crimes.
The official said one breakthrough of this guideline is to emphasise that both officials from the Party and the government must be punished if they fail to do their jobs.
"Given that the law and rules didn't have terms binding Party officials, this guideline pushes officials from the Party and government to shoulder their responsibilities on building eco-civilisation," the official said.
Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences added that the guidelines also describe a specific process for implementing a coordination mechanism among environmental supervision departments, discipline inspection bodies and organisation and personnel departments.
"And if the supervision department employees fail to do their job, they should also be questioned. This can effectively help implement the guidelines," Wang said.
The guidelines also steer government and Party officials toward a healthier environment and ecosystem, and away from a previous focus on economic development.