Record-breaking pollution in Beijing and other environmental problems in China are the result of unchecked government power, one of the country’s former top environment officials has said.
On 12 January, Beijing’s pollution hit a nauseating 755 on a US Environmental Protection Agency-designed 0-500 scale. Below 25 is considered the safe daily level by the World Health Organisation. Stores sold out of anti-pollution face masks, flights were delayed and hospital respiratory wards were overrun with coughing patients. Internet users called it the “airpocalypse”.
“I have to admit that governments have done far from enough to rein in the wild pursuit of economic growth, and failed to avoid some of the worst pollution scenarios we, as policymakers, had predicted,” Qu Geping, a top environmental protection administrator from 1987 to 1993, told the South China Morning Post.