Chinese Internet users yesterday accused the government of failing to take responsibility for a deadly bullet train crash after it said 54 officials were to blame, but none would face criminal charges.
“It looks like they found some scapegoats to fire,” said a note posted on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.
The government said on Wednesday that design flaws and mismanagement caused the July 23 crash that killed 40 people and ignited a public outcry about the high costs and dangers of such projects.
It said officials, including a former railway minister who had been fired before the crash, were to blame and would face reprimands and demotions.
Thousands of postings on microblogs and Internet bulletin boards criticized the penalties as too mild. They said too few senior figures were held accountable for the -disaster near the city of Wenzhou, which also injured 177 people.
Ahead of the report, even state media expressed skepticism about the outcome of the investigation.
Those sentiments grew after the report, which was due on Nov. 20 under the government’s own rules, was delayed without explanation.
The report affirmed earlier government accounts that a lightning strike caused one bullet train to stall and then a sensor failure and missteps by train controllers allowed a second train to keep moving on the same track and slam into it.
Among those blamed were a former railway minister, Liu Zhijun (劉志軍), who spearheaded the bullet train’s construction, and the ministry’s chief engineer. Both were detained in an unrelated corruption probe months before the crash.
Also blamed was the general manager of the company that made the sensor, who died of a heart attack in August while talking to investigators.
The report promised improved safety and oversight, but gave no details on planned changes.
Some online comments yesterday suggested sarcastically that authorities who need to deflect blame should have cited 19th-century steam engine pioneer James Watt or the imperial-era officials who promoted railway development.
“The black hand behind the curtain was anti-China forces based overseas, and the leader of them is called Watt,” said a note on Sina Weibo. “Why did you invent the steam engine?!”
Yesterday, a man was struck by a bullet train and killed near the southeastern city of Xiamen after he climbed over a safety barrier and tried to cross the tracks, Xinhua news agency reported.
It said the train halted for 18 minutes and then continued on to Xiamen with a “bloody dent on the front of the locomotive.”