Wanted: Mayor for polluted China city
Wed, Apr 01, 2009

BEIJING (AFP) - A city in northern China notorious for its pollution and deadly mining accidents is having trouble finding willing candidates for mayor and Communist Party chief, state media reported Wednesday.

The two top posts have been vacant since September in Linfen, regularly cited as one of China's most polluted cities, when their former occupants were sacked over a mining disaster that killed 270 people, the China Daily said.

The paper quoted political experts as saying the posts were probably unattractive to aspiring leaders due to a history of their incumbents being fired following big accidents in the coal-rich region of Shanxi province.

The previous Linfen party boss, Xia Zhengui, was sacked in the aftermath of the September disaster, a landslide triggered by the deadly collapse of a nearby mining waste reservoir.

The same accident also lead to the ouster of the city's major, Liu Zhijie, and the resignation of Shanxi's provincial governor, Meng Xuenong.

The paper quoted a government official in Linfen as saying the posts had been vacant for an "unusually long" time.

There have been other smaller, but still deadly, coal mining accidents in and around Linfen in recent years.

Besides its tragic mining history, coal-burning earned Linfen a place on a list of the 10 most polluted cities in the world in 2007 compiled by the US-based environmental watchdog the Blacksmith Institute.

The China Daily said the city had seen four mayors in the last three years as the central government, embarrassed by recurring mining disasters throughout the country, sought to hold local officials accountable for such accidents.

China has thousands of unregulated and illegal coal mines where poor miners work in harsh and dangerous conditions to satisfy the country's voracious demand for coal, which supplies more than two-thirds of the country's energy.


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