Safety whistle-blower gets demoted and ostracised

Li Jinxiong has a mission: to improve safety and reduce accidents in China’s electricity supply grid.  The former grid safety inspector from the south-eastern province of Fujian claims that the situation in the electricity supply sector is just as bad as in China’s notoriously dangerous coal mines. However, he says, no one is paying attention.

“Unlike the numerous and difficult to regulate   privately-run coal mines in China, the electricity supply system is owned by the state, and has considerable resources and technical support. Why do accidents continue to occur?” Li wrote in his blog recently.

Since 2009, Li has been running a one-man campaign to raise awareness of the problem. “Honestly, as an old man, I’m not supposed to care too much about work-related accidents,” said the 51-year-old self-taught engineer with numerous patents and academic papers to his name. “It is my conscience that urged me to continue, and I hope everybody can join me to help improve the state grids’ work safety standards.”

Li Jinxiong says he would give out 10,000 yuan for anyone who proves more capable than him in electricity work safety. Photo Credit: Li Jinxiong

But so far, very few people have been listening. When Li provided his former boss, the head of the Fujian Sanming Electricity Bureau, with detailed proposals on how to enhance work safety supervision and implement technology innovation, his ideas fell on deaf ears, and eventually led to his demotion.
Li claims that some leaders don’t care about or even ignore work safety loopholes because they are afraid of losing face or out of jealousy. So far, the official responsible for Li’s demotion cannot be reached for comment.
For many people, publishing an academic thesis or patenting an invention should bring joy and hopefully riches. But for Li, each patent he has received has been a nightmare. As he noted in his blog after being given another patent recently:
After I published over twenty theses, I lost my job as a safety inspector; after my previous patents were applied in the working environment, I was demoted from my previous job; after my book on work safety was published, I was downgraded to a security guard. All in all, I was ‘taken care of’ and relocated to the remote countryside after I revealed significant potential safety hazards.

You would think that people who report loopholes in work safety standards would get rewarded, as a means of encouraging other people to follow suit, and help the authorities prevent losses or casualties before they occur. But not only has Li Jinxiong not be rewarded for his whistle-blowing efforts, he has been persecuted and ostracised because of them.

He says he will continue the struggle against his face-saving boss but admits the outcome is far from certain.

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