Party Leaders Filter While Beijing Fumes

December 8, 2011 10:33 pm Last Updated: December 12, 2011 2:22 pm
Tourists take in the view of the Forbidden City from atop Coal Hill in Jingshan Park, north of the former imperial palace on a smoggy day in Beijing on Dec. 10, 2009. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Hospitals in Beijing are jammed and stores have been depleted of breathing masks as the city’s air quality has deteriorated to the point that flights have been delayed and residents are trapped in their homes.

As measured by the “Particulate Matter Index” (PM2.5), the amount of micro-particles in Beijing’s air can be dangerous to inhale and even cancer-causing. “Off the scale” readings of over 500 have been commonplace this month.

Communist Party elite in their luxury compounds at Zhongnanhai, however, are enjoying air purified by the Yuanda Group, based in Changsha.

The first unit was installed in the Politburo Standing Committee’s meeting room and the company subsequently received orders for 200 more, priced at $2,000 each.

Just how bad is air pollution in Beijing? Professor He Bing at the China University of Political Science blogged that the air purifier in his house had to be washed after 10 days’ use and the dirty water was as black as ink.

Staff at the Beijing Children’s Hospital described the conditions: “Our hospital is full of respiratory patients, around 7 to 8 thousand patients every day. We have just over 900 beds in the hospital and nearly all are occupied.”

A resident who lives less than 1000 yards from the Beijing television tower said that in order to protect herself, she has stopped going outside.

The smoggy city led one resident to say: “I feel out of breath outside and medicines are useless. I am covered in sweat after only a little bit of walking. It’s so foggy that I can’t even see the TV tower or anything else. The outdoors is covered in black smoke day and night. “

Another Beijinger said that his friend’s flight was scheduled for yesterday morning, but it never took off.

A Mr. Liu says, “I walked around for about 2 hours this afternoon, my nose was very stuffy afterward, and my body feels uncomfortable too.”

On Dec. 4, the U.S Embassy in Beijing published PM2.5 air quality measurements of 522, which exceeded the tolerable limit of 500. On the same day, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau claimed that its measurements show that Beijing’s air is only slightly polluted.

Sensing the growing public outrage, Beijing has announced that the PM 2.5 level will be given nationwide; starting in 2016.

China Daily’s English edition reported Tuesday that the lung cancer rate in Beijing has risen 60 percent in the past decade. This edition will not be very widely read among Chinese speakers.

The U.S. Embassy publishes PM readings on Twitter, a social network site that is blocked in China.

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