Beijing’s reputation for terrible air quality has travelled far and wide. Most recently, a wave of heavy smog hit the city, exciting another stream of complaints, including remarks from a world class tennis player stationed in the capital for the China Open.
“So now I am in Beijing again. The city that cuts off days from your life every time you visit and breathe what they call air here. It’s a joke how smoggy it is here!” wrote Swedish tennis player Robert Lindstedt on his blog, when he arrived in Beijing on the Sept. 27. “When we were about to land today I looked out the window and saw only clouds. Or what I thought was clouds.”
China’s Bureau of Meteorology released a yellow smog warning for Sept. 29, saying the Air Pollution Index (API) reached a level of four in most areas of northern China. Elsewhere around Beijing the API was five, meaning serious pollution.
The Bureau of Meteorology suggested people wear masks when outside, and go outside less.
On Sept. 30, Lindstedt complained again on his blog: “I have been thinking a lot about how bad the air is over here,” using a strong expletive for emphasis. “I get dizzy when I get up. Yesterday I couldn’t recover between points in practice and was breathing heavily the whole hour… It’s just not healthy to be here.”
A Beijing resident, giving the surname Fu, told Epoch Times that he can’t see well when driving. “Beijing’s air is not good recent few days. I have only been able to see 5 or 6 meters in front of my car since the 28th. It’s heavily overcast. I have to wear a mask,” he said on the telephone.
“The air indeed chokes me. People on street all have to cover their mouths,” another Beijing resident, Mr. Xu, told Epoch Times. “I rarely go outside now except going to work and coming home.”
Undeterred by the situation on the ground, the Beijing Weibo Release Office, an official agency, posted on Sept. 29 that “Beijing’s air conditions have been improving continuously for 14 years” and “all kinds of pollutants have declined overall.”
Over 3,000 comments under the post mocked it, and called it a “rumour.” (The Chinese authorities have recently launched a campaign against what they call rumours on the Internet.) “Lying!” “So despicable!” “Don’t you feel ashamed to say that!” were frequent refrains by those who commented.
This year is particularly bad for air in Beijing, Lindstedt wrote on his blog. “We spend most of our time at the hotel since we don’t want to go out in the bad air. But if I should be honest, this year has been worse than the other years,” he said.
At least two other tennis players — Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Dejan Petković — had to pause their games because they felt dizzy and sick, according to Phoenix Television, which is based in Hong Kong. Chinese Internet users remarked that they must have been choked by the bad air.
With reporting by Li Xia