Chinese academics, bloggers, and even some state-run media have urged the ruling Communist Party to loosen its grip on state agencies to more accurately report on pollution and smog that has enveloped Beijing and dozens of other cities in recent days.
According to reports, China experienced some of its worst air pollution on record over the weekend, prompting calls for the official Chinese Academy of Meteorological Science to revoke its status as a monitoring station.
More than 30 cities, including Beijing, have been covered in dense smog over the past several days.
“This institute behaved irresponsibly and faked and covered up data in its assessment of the garbage incinerator project in Qinhuangdao West, particularly when it came to public participation,” Beijing Normal University researcher Mao Da said on his microblog account, reported Radio Free Asia.
“This sort of thing is common in all of the bodies charged with carrying out environmental assessments,” he continued.
The pollution was apparently so bad that a factory fire in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang wasn’t noticed for nearly three hours due to the thick haze, reported state-run China Daily.
A number of Chinese cities, including the infamous coal city of Linfen, which has been called the “most polluted city in the world,” have been sullied by air, ground, and water contamination. Much of the pollution is caused by the burning of coal, as China is the top coal-burning country in the world.
But pollution is often downplayed by official media and many residents are forced to rely on the air monitoring of foreign embassies to see what the air quality is like outside. The U.S. practice of publishing unmanipulated air quality information has been criticized by the Chinese regime as a type of “meddling” in its “internal affairs.”
In Beijing, the PM 2.5 particles index that comprises air pollution was off the charts. On Saturday, state-media reported that it reached 993 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization has said that healthy levels for PM 2.5 is under 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
Such particles, which are one thirtieth the size of a single strand of human hair, can penetrate deep into the lungs.
On Sunday, state-run media reported that pollution in the capital area reached the highest levels on the index as the city issued an “orange fog warning.”
The fact that state-run media are even reporting on China’s heavy pollution in a widespread manner was seen as a crack in the Chinese regime’s control over the media regarding sensitive issues.
The Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times wrote in an editorial on Monday that as many eastern cities have been engulfed in smog, there should be more transparent reporting on China’s smog problem.The editorial said: “Recent atmospheric pollution has really sounded a warning to us: if we continue this way of development instead of adjusting it, the long-term damage will be serious.”
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