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High-profile departure

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James Reynolds | 10:24 UK time, Monday, 15 September 2008

I'm not sure if you get severance pay if you lose your job in the Chinese Communist Party. But Meng Xuenong probably knows.

He was fired as mayor of Beijing in 2003 for covering up the outbreak of the respiratory disease, SARS. His was one of the most high-profile sackings in China in recent years.

But in China, if you're sacked it doesn't always mean that you're done. Rehabilitation can come pretty quickly. A few months after he was fired, Meng Xuenong was quietly given a new low-profile job (in charge of a water project.) Then, in 2007 he was chosen to be the governor of the Shanxi Province - China's biggest coal-producing region.

But now, he's run into trouble again. Earlier this month in Shanxi, heavy rains broke down the retaining wall of an unlicensed mine. Tonnes of iron ore waste poured down a hillside onto a nearby marketplace. More than 250 people were killed (many of the dead are unidentified migrant workers).

The landslide has angered many people here. Every year around 5,000 people in China die in mining accidents - many are killed working in dangerous, unlicensed mines. The Communist Party says that it's tried to close down as many illegal mines as possible, but, in many areas, these mines continue to operate.

The men who ran the illegal mine which caused the landslide in Shanxi have now been detained. A state investigator has criticised the local government for poor supervision of work safety. And Meng Xuenong has had to resign as governor of Shanxi - the second time he's lost a high-profile job. Will he get to come back again?


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