China to launch new round of nationwide environmental inspections

The Shanghai skyline. China has launched a “war on pollution” to reverse the damage caused by more three decades of industrial growth. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 June 2019

China to launch new round of nationwide environmental inspections

  • The environment ministry last month publicly accused dozens of firms of exceeding pollution limits.

SHANGHAI: China will soon begin dispatching teams of inspectors to its provinces and regions in a new nationwide probe into environmental compliance, with the performance of state-owned firms one of its big priorities, an official said yesterday.

The first round of inspections saw thousands of government and state enterprise officials held to account, with many given official reprimands and a small number subjected to criminal punishments.

Zhai Qing, Vice Minister of Ecology and Environment, told a press briefing on Thursday that preparation work has been completed and they were now waiting for the go-ahead to launch a second round of regional inspections focusing on state-owned enterprises and government ministries.

Zhai said the central government will carry out several rounds of inspections covering all regions of China over 2019-2021, and then in 2022 hold “reviews” into how those violations have been rectified.

“No matter what company they are, what size of the company they are, as long as they violate environmental rules, we will strictly investigate and deal with them,” he said.

The environment ministry last month publicly accused dozens of firms, including subsidiaries of some its biggest state enterprises like China Baowu Steel Group and the Aluminum Corporation of China of exceeding pollution limits.

New guidelines published this month have created a standing army of environmental inspectors now responsible for identifying violations nationwide and supervising efforts to rectify them.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang launched a “war on pollution” in 2014 to reverse the damage done to the country’s skies, water and soil after more than three decades of breakneck industrial growth.

President Xi Jinping has also identified the environment as a major political priority, and he promised last year to use the full might of the Chinese Communist Party to resolve the country’s environmental problems.

The central government environmental inspection teams were first launched at the end of 2015 with the full authority of the Communist Party’s top leadership, reflecting concerns that the environment ministry itself was not powerful enough to tackle the problems on its own.

Led by retired senior ministers, they were sent out to every province and region, starting in the pollution hotspot of Hebei province, to check how well China’s policies and standards were being enforced.

They were modeled on China’s regional anti-corruption task forces, and were given powers to conduct spot checks anywhere and without warning, and to summon any local government or company official of any rank to explain their record on pollution.

Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

Updated 13 November 2019

Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

  • The former motor giant chief’s legal team has alleged that both his arrest and the prosecution efforts have been illegal

TOKYO: The drama surrounding the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former boss of motor giants Nissan and Renault, has yet to reach its climax. Yet the plot continues to thicken with each new development.

On Monday, Ghosn’s defense lawyers unveiled court submissions highlighting the circumstances in which the 65-year-old executive was arrested and subsequently held in detention.

“We believe that Mr. Carlos Ghosn is innocent. We believe that the arrest and the prosecution efforts thus far are illegal and therefore Mr. Ghosn should be immediately released,” the head of his defense team, Junichiro Hironaka, said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo on Monday.

Hironaka claimed that Nissan wanted to kick out Carlos Ghosn from the company and therefore put together a team dedicated to searching around for something that would justify them to do that.

“This prosecution motion wasn’t initiated because the prosecution side believed that Mr. Ghosn had committed an illegal act. Fundamentally there is a problem with this being treated as a criminal act,” he said.

Hironaka further said that the prosecutor’s office is supposed to be acting in the public good for everyone and not behalf of a specific corporation.

“From the investigation level, there were various problems and mistakes with this case. Furthermore, the Japanese persecution office can’t reach overseas so they rely on Nissan employees to go into Mr. Ghosn’s offices and residences and removed objects illegally,” he said.

Hironaka said there is no evidence to support the alleged wrongdoing claim that Nissan made payments to SBA in Oman, and Ghosn re-directed that money to himself or his family.

“The amounts that were paid by Nissan matched exactly the amounts due to SBA,” he said.

The lawyer had a similar response to the reports connecting some donations by Ghosn to a school in Lebanon that would somehow benefit himself. “There is absolutely no evidence or factual basis for indicating that,” Hironaka said.

He said that his team is trying to access correct information and find out what evidence the prosecution might have.

“I have made an effort to share information with the media, including the foreign media, during this whole pre-trial motion,” he said.

Under the Japanese system, the prosecutors are not required to disclose all the evidence at their disposal. Japanese law requires that prosecutors must disclose anything related to any evidence related to the specific filings they make.

They must also disclose any evidence that is related to the filings that are made by the defense counsel. However, there is no requirement for them to disclose evidence from other parts.

Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Nov. 19, 2018, on multiple charges related to his stewardship of the two companies.

The cases involved not only Nissan-Renault and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors (part of the Franco-Japanese alliance), but also the Japanese and French governments along with various key players from Asia and the Middle East.

Nissan was on the brink of bankruptcy in March 1999, with about 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) in interest-bearing debt.

This is when it entered a capital partnership with major French automaker Renault SA. Ghosn has been credited for turning the company around dramatically since then.

However, fears that the high-profile CEO and chairman was planning to merge Nissan into a much larger multinational motor alliance appeared to have fueled speculation regarding the future of the company.

It was reportedly argued within Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government that the automaker would no longer be recognizably Japanese.

The case has larger ramifications and the two governments have routinely become involved in discussions related to its future.

According to news reports, when Macron and Abe met in Buenos Aires, the French president asked that the Franco-Japanese alliance be maintained.

On being asked by Arab News Japan about reports of a prosecution team visiting Saudi Arabia and Oman, Hironaka confirmed that the visit indeed took place after Ghosn’s arrest.

“However, we have not been given any access to any information that they may or may not have gathered there,” he said.