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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Workplace deaths rise in China
Chinese miner
Officials says mining fatalities are down but others have risen
The number of deaths caused by industrial accidents in China has gone up by 9 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to official figures released on Thursday.

Accidents in mines and factories killed 11,449 people in the first nine months of 2003, despite a nationwide safety crackdown.

Fatalities were down slightly in China's coal mines, but the number of deaths in non-mining industries rose by 19.1 percent, to 5,203.

Workers are working longer hours since state owned industries were privatised and they have no knowledge of health and safety
Han Dongfang
Chinese labour activist
China launched the safety campaign last year in its mines and factories, which are among the world's deadliest.

Authorities announced stiffer penalties for violations and the country's first national force of workplace inspectors.

Some analysts blame the rise in accidents on China's shift to a market-style economy.

"Workers are working longer hours since state owned industries were privatised, and they have no knowledge of health and safety issues," said Han Dongfang, director of the China Labour Bulletin, based in Hong Kong.

Coal mining 4,620 fatalities
Other mining 1,626 fatalities
Non-mining industries 5,203 fatalities

Mr Han told BBC News Online that the real number of deaths was much higher than the official figure, because some operators paid local officials and victims' families not to report fatalities.

Mr Han said it was impossible for anyone to ascertain the real number of fatal accidents in mining and other industries.

But he did acknowledge that the central government wanted to establish the true figure, but was thwarted by the system.

In the deadliest reported accident this year, an explosion in March killed 72 coal miners in the northern city of Mengnanzhuang.

The blast was blamed on miners smoking cigarettes in the pit, and the mine operator was fined a record 21 million yuan (US$2.5 million).

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