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China Internet users scream for clean air act

2013-1-29 (accessed 29 January 2013)

With northern China once again struggling to breathe under a blanket of carcinogenic haze, one of the China’s highest profile antipollution warriors has invited the country’s social media users to vote on whether China should enact a national clean air law.

The result is a landslide of such epic proportions, it puts even China’s rubber-stamp legislature to shame.

In less than 10 hours of voting, nearly 32,000 microbloggers have said they agree with real estate mogul Pan Shiyi’s call for China to implement a clean air law. Fewer than 250 said they were opposed, while just over 120 said they weren’t sure.

“I’m guessing those who voted ‘no’ are major pollution producers afraid a law would hurt their interests – or they’re creatures who don’t breathe,” wrote one Weibo user.

The poll, posted to Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging platform, is hardly scientific. Still, it’s tempting to compare the margin of approval to those of important votes before the National People’s Congress, which passed Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2012 budget plan with a much narrower 2,291-to-438 vote last March.

“Controlling air pollution requires the participation of every citizen. Most important is implementing laws,” wrote Mr. Pan, himself a legislative representative. “I will use my position as an NPC delegate to submit the results of this vote to the NPC and the government.”

The cloud of pollution presently afflicting northern China covers 1.3 million square kilometers – an area more than three times the size of California –the state-run Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday. Levels of fine particulate pollution, known as PM2.5, have been at “hazardous” levels in Beijing since early Sunday morning, according to pollution monitors at the U.S. embassy in eastern Beijing. Air quality index readings from the embassy briefly crept above 500 late Monday night – a level once described by the embassy’s @BeijingAir feed on Twitter as “crazy bad” but now labeled simply “beyond index.”

Read more on China Real Time Report

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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