SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's practice of firing officials after major accidents is scaring away candidates for official posts, with the top two seats in one coal-producing city vacant for six months and counting.
The last mayor of the city of Linfen, regularly designated the most polluted city in China, was sacked in September after the collapse of a mine's tailings dam killed more than 50 people.
The position of party secretary, the most powerful at every level of Chinese government, is also empty, after the last one was also fired.
"Party and administration positions in Linfen have become hot potatoes," the official Xinhua News Agency said in a report.
When the provincial government recruited candidates in other cities, many people declined to be considered for a position in Linfen, Xinhua added.
As China's central government pushes for a safer and cleaner coal industry, it has become common practice to fire officials immediately after high-profile coal mine accidents.
Officials as senior as the province's governors have fallen victim to the practice. Former governor of Shanxi Meng Xuenong was sacked for the same accident that ended the career of the Linfen mayor, after an eight-month tenure as governor.
Linfen's deputy party secretary and acting mayor, Luo Qingyu, has been the leading candidate for mayor since his predecessor was removed, according to the city government website (www.linfen.gov.cn).
But the meeting of the local people's congress, which would confirm the new mayor, has been postponed indefinitely, a local government staffer told Reuters.
Officials who are merely fired can consider themselves lucky. The former director of the State Food and Drug Administration was sentenced to death in the summer of 2007, after being convicted for taking bribes from pharmaceutical companies.
Reporting by Rujun Shen; editing by Lucy Hornby