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Chinese man sues government over failure to curb air pollution



The Chinese government is being sued by a resident of the northern city of Shijiazhuang, who claims the region’s Environmental Protection Bureau is shunning its responsibilities to tackle smog.

According to local newspaper Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, Li Guixin has lodged a complaint with the district court, asking that it forces the local government in Shijiazhuang to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”.

Li told the paper that he was proposing “administrative compensation […] to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims”.

He said that he was forced to spend money on face masks, an air purifier and a treadmill, because he could not go out for exercise when the smog was at its peak in December.

Li added, “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary.”

Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) representative in China, told Reuters that the authorities were seeing smog as a “crisis” after they raised the alert level to the second highest “orange” danger levels this week in Beijing.

He said, “There’s now clear evidence that, in the long-term, high levels of air pollution can actually also cause […] lung cancer.”

Last year, an unnamed eight-year-old girl was diagnosed with lung cancer in the eastern province of Jiangsu, with her doctor blaming air pollution as the cause.

Smog has been an issue that Chinese authorities have shown a keen willingness to address in recent years. Although the country is the largest consumer of coal in the world, its government has embarked on the world’s largest ever renewable energy drive.

A WWF report published last week estimated that China could generate 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. 

Further reading:

China dispatches pollution inspectors as Beijing smog crisis continues

Beijing issues first ‘orange’ pollution warning amid smog crisis

Report: China can reduce emissions and grow economy simultaneously

China sets up $1.65bn fund to solve air pollution

Smog in Beijing 25 times more dangerous than safe levels