China’s Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, upset by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing tweeting about Beijing’s air quality, has spoken out against foreign embassies measuring air quality in China.
At a press conference on June 5, Wu Xiaoqing said China’s government measures air quality, and foreign embassies are going against China’s regulations by publishing measurements.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has more than 20,000 followers on Twitter for its Beijing air quality feed, which has carried updated air quality results every hour since 2008.
U.S. consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou also measure air quality, providing information for consulate staff and U.S. citizens living and working in those cities.
A day earlier, June 4, Wu’s statements about foreign embassies measuring and publishing air quality data were carried widely in state-controlled media reports.
“We wish those embassies and consulates will respect China’s laws and stop publishing air quality data which is not representative,” Wu said, according to a report in the state-run China Daily.
Beijing has infamously been mired in a foggy-haze of pollution from industrial factories and sandstorms, so much so that visibility on the streets is often affected.
Ordinary Chinese citizens have become skeptical about China’s figures relating to air quality. Disparity between U.S. data on air quality in Beijing, and China’s official data has added to people’s skepticism.
In March, fog and pollution reportedly delayed more than 400 flights in and out of Beijing’s airport, and also caused problems for local commuters.
Pan Shiyi, a real estate magnate who lives in Beijing, publishes a statistical comparison between China and the U.S. Embassy data on Sina Weibo (a popular Chinese microblogging similar to Twitter). He says he examines the data to check if it is safe outside to exercise.
Data from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday suggested pollution levels were “dangerous” for sensitive persons, measuring 47 micrograms of fine particulate matter. Bejing’s official readings ranging from 51 and 79 micrograms across the city, were classified as “good,” Fox News reported.
The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai began publishing PM2.5 data [Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called "fine" particles] on air quality for Shanghai in May. Zhang Quan, head of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, echoed statements made by Wu, saying it is illegal for the U.S. diplomatic mission to publish its own air quality measurements.
U.S. Consulate staffer in Shenyang called Luo Jie responded to statements in China’s state-run media on Weibo, saying: “Monitoring our working environment is part of our job, and the consulate is responsible for our diplomats and their families’ health, which is why we publish the data. If our diplomats’ health becomes part of China’s internal affairs, it becomes just too complicated.”
Well-known Chinese blogger Michael Anti suggested on Twitter that Chinese officials were being hypocritical, because CCTV, a state-controlled media, publishes air quality data for other nations, not just China.
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