China will jail forty-seven steel company officials for faking air pollution data, in a sign that Beijing’s crackdown on firms that are flouting environmental rules is intensifying.
The officials who worked at four mills in Tangshan city near Beijing, China’s top steelmaking hub, were given prison sentences from six to eighteen months, the municipal government said in a statement on its WeChat channel that cited court documents.
The sentences underscore Beijing’s push to clean up a major source of air pollution. Authorities have ramped up environmental controls on the steel industry over the past decade in a bid to reduce bouts of dirty air. The goal is to have more than 530 million tons of capacity in the “ultra-low emissions” category by 2025.
The officials — at Tangshan Great Wall Steel Group Songting Iron & Steel Co., Hebei Xinda Iron & Steel Group Co., Tangshan Medium Thick Plate Co. and Tangshan Jinma Steel Group — interfered with monitoring devices to allow the release of large quantities of pollutants in March 2021, according to the statement. Two of the companies — Tangshan Songting and Hebei Xinda — were also fined 4 million yuan to 7 million yuan ($628,000 to $1.1 million).
It’s part of a long-running environmental crackdown in the steelmaking hub. Tangshan Jinma and another three mills were found guilty last March of not complying with production cuts put in place to reduce pollution.