Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Chinese mad about air pollution and vent where they can: online

Yesterday I commented on a story about the thick smog that descended on Beijing to stop flights. Well, there's a follow-up story that speaks to another part of the Chinese experience: a lack of a public (physical) forum to protest. Protests are basically not allowed in China (almost certainly a response to the Tianamen Square riots and massacre... a topic which is also censored in China), and so as environmental conditions go from bad to worse, there is no direct petition of government to address grievances. (Whether that right would be upheld is a different question; that it doesn't exist in the first place is what I'm talking about here.) So what are people doing? Going online and venting there.

According to this follow-up story in PhysOrg, "Chinese go online to vent anger over pollution":
Millions of Chinese went online Tuesday to vent their anger over the thick smog that has blanketed Beijing in recent days, raising health fears and causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Visibility had improved by Tuesday, but 89 domestic and 11 international flights had been cancelled or delayed by late afternoon.

Users of Sina's weibo -- one of China's most popular microblogs -- expressed frustration at travel delays, with one saying it had taken him 24 hours, instead of four, to travel to Beijing from the southern city of Shenzhen.

Some linked the toxic air to other hot issues of the day, such as a manhunt for the bomber of a bank in central China, or a yoghurt drink made by Coca Cola that was deliberately poisoned, killing one.

"The reality has crushed my confidence. No wonder rich people all go to foreign countries to avoid disasters."

Taobao.com, China's biggest online retailer, sold 30,000 masks on Sunday, when the US embassy in Beijing rated the air as "hazardous", the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The US embassy conducts its own air quality measurements, measuring the finest particles, which experts say make up much of Beijing's pollution.

The official government figures are based on measurements of larger particles and often give a better assessment of air quality, leading to accusations the authorities are downplaying how serious the pollution is.

On Tuesday, the US embassy pollution index called the air "very unhealthy" while Xinhua's measurement said it was "slightly polluted."

Weibo user "T_maoyangshenghuo" reacted angrily at comments from the spokesperson of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau saying the smog in Beijing caused "slight pollution" over the last two days.

"Beijing citizens are speechless. Where is the serious pollution? In the brain of the spokesperson?" the message said.

Another web user said there were "always huge differences between the public data and weather broadcasts and the feelings of people."

"Sometimes, I suspect that what we're breathing isn't air, but politics."
YES! Somehow, I doubt, though, that there is a Chinese politician who claims that, "Air pollution is the greatest hoax perpetrated upon the Chinese people."

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