21 dead in China chemical leaks this week

Ho-hum, just another week in the China labor scene.

AT least 21 people have died from a spate of chemical leaks over the past week in China, largely due to lax safety procedures and outdated equipment, state media said today.

In response, a government circular has been issued demanding immediate inspections of production, storage, trade, transport, usage and disposal of all dangerous chemical products, Xinhua news agency said.

The notice was posted by the Office of the Committee for Safety in Production as yet another fire and explosion at a chemical plant was reported.

Local officials in Ningbo city, in eastern Zhejiang province, said fire fighters were battling a blaze at a plant this morning.

But no need for concern. Things are improving.

Seriously, labour conditions in China are improving, although considering where they’ve been the past 100 years, that says very little. With its ascension to the WTO and its aspirations to play a leading role in global trade, China needs to make a demonstrable effort to make things better for its workers. This kind of negligence provides powerful grist for the “stop the outsourcing” mill, and China would be wise not to leave itself so vulnerable to attack from those who say “Made in China” means made with wretchedly unsafe labor conditions.

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