China tells US to stop reporting Beijing's bad air

Jun 05, 2012 by ALEXA OLESEN
In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, a man rides an electric bike crossing a street shrouded by haze in Beijing. A senior Chinese environmental official told foreign embassies on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 to stop publishing their own reports on air quality in China, a clear reference to a popular U.S. Embassy Twitter feed that tracks pollution in smoggy Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

(AP) — China told foreign embassies Tuesday to stop publishing their own reports on air quality in the country, escalating its objections to a popular U.S. Embassy Twitter feed that tracks pollution in smoggy Beijing.

Only the Chinese government is authorized to monitor and publish air quality information and data from other sources may not be standardized or rigorous, Wu Xiaoqing, a vice environmental minister, told reporters.

China has long taken issue with the U.S. Embassy's postings of hourly readings of Beijing's air quality on a Twitter feed with more than 19,000 followers since 2008. But its past objections were raised quietly. U.S. consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou also post readings of the cities' air quality on Twitter.

The Twitter feeds were operating normally Tuesday, and an embassy spokesman in Beijing said the air quality reports were meant to inform Americans living in the three Chinese cities.

The air quality readings in Beijing are based on a single monitoring station within embassy grounds, and pollution levels are rated according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard that is more stringent than the one used by the Chinese government.

For instance, the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday reported 47 micrograms of fine particulate matter — particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or about 1/30th the width of an average human hair — in the air and said the level was "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Readings from Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau's 27 monitoring stations ranged between 51 to 79 micrograms but categorized all those levels as "good."

The Beijing government only began reporting PM2.5 earlier this year after long-standing public and international criticism of its lack of transparency about its air quality.

The government appears frustrated that there are now dueling readings for air quality and that the U.S. readings underscore the fact that pollution levels considered unhealthy in the U.S. are classified as good by China.

Wu said it isn't fair to judge Chinese air by American standards because China is a developing country and noted that U.S. environmental guidelines have become more stringent over time.

The standard China uses "takes into account the level of our current stage of development," Wu said.

Wu also said that air quality monitoring by foreign diplomats was inconsistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and urged diplomats to abide by China's laws and regulations.

It is unclear if other nations monitor and publicize their readings of air quality in Chinese cities, but local Chinese have used the U.S. readings to prod their government into publishing more detailed pollution data.

Later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin echoed Wu's remarks, saying at a regular press briefing that China objected to the publicity rather than the gathering of the environmental data.

"Of course, if the foreign embassies want to collect air quality information for their own staff or diplomats, I think that is their own matter, but we believe that this type of information should not released to the public," Liu said.

The top environmental official in Shanghai over the weekend also spoke out on the issue, telling local media that an air quality feed launched last month by the U.S. consulate in Shanghai was illegal.

The U.S. Embassy said the air quality monitor in Shanghai measures the air quality in the area around the consulate's office. "The monitor is an unofficial resource for the health of the consulate community," said Richard Buangan, embassy spokesman in Beijing.

China requires concentrations of PM2.5 to be kept below daily averages of 75 micrograms per cubic meter — more than twice as lenient as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standard of 35 micrograms.

PM2.5 are believed to be a health risk because they can lodge deeply in the lungs, and have been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer.

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More information:
U.S. Embassy Beijing air quality monitor:!/BeijingAir

U.S. Consulate Guangzhou air quality monitor:!/Guangzhou_Air

U.S. Consulate Shanghai air quality monitor:!/cgshanghaiair

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User comments : 13

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3 / 5 (10) Jun 05, 2012
the Chinese sound more and more like corporate America every day.

wait... is it the other way around?
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 05, 2012
Imagine if the internet arrived 40 years earlier. The world could have seen the LA smog at it's worst, or some nice pics of a burning river.....Maybe the US are just trying to prevent the chinese from making the same mistakes they made....pretty soon there will be US consumption monitors at every all u can eat buffet in china. Oh, this just in: they don't have those in China.
Vendicar Dickarian
1.9 / 5 (18) Jun 05, 2012
the Chinese sound more and more like corporate America every day.

wait... is it the other way around?

Not surprising to read idiotic comments here on occasion, but this one takes the cake.

Sure, the totalitarian, communist government of China is perfectly comparable to free enterprise in a democratic society. Doh!
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 05, 2012
Well I hope the embassy tells China to stick it ... tho I'm not sure the chinese government can be shamed into corrective measures on the pollution.
5 / 5 (4) Jun 05, 2012
The embassy is American soil under international law, so the Chinese Government can go suck it. However they can prevent the broadcast of the results.

1 / 5 (4) Jun 05, 2012
USA is deeply concerned with human rights violation and pollution in china Hmm... i'd say diplomatically STFU&MYOB
3 / 5 (10) Jun 05, 2012
the Chinese sound more and more like corporate America every day.

wait... is it the other way around?

Sure, the totalitarian, communist government of China is perfectly comparable to free enterprise in a democratic society. Doh!

Cmon I'm sure you have heard worse.

There is nothing free about a society whose politicians are so easily bought through corporate lobbyist.
2.2 / 5 (10) Jun 05, 2012
Seriously you "patriotic" right wing blowhards, I love America a LOT. Probably more than you do and for better reasons too. But China is much larger, has more than 3 times the population and became developed after us. Yet they don't seem to have 3 times the problems, in fact, considering the things they do better than us (population control ahem minus the abuses) they are doing great.

Hopefully they realize that they need to be twice as environmentally concious as us and learn from our mistakes but sometimes I think the USA and certain idiot "patriots" like V. Dickhead want them to fail. Which is just plain stupid, you are the kind of idiot who would rather see your brother fail than do better than you because you never got over the penis envy and your vagina wound up so loose and unattractive.

Next you will be picking on Brazil because she has bigger tit's and a nicer ass.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 05, 2012

"Sure, the totalitarian, communist government of China is perfectly comparable to free enterprise" - Vendicar Dikarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 05, 2012
China's demand illustrates the principle failure that is often associated with state control.

The failure that appears here, is the failure that brought down the Soviet Union. And that failure is allowing openness, freedom of expression, in the nation.

Without freedom of expression and freedom to point to real problems and have them acted upon those problems fester, pile onto each other layer by layer and will eventually take down a nation.

The same problem exists in America, but not because of state restrictions on freedom of expression but by corporate propaganda that confounds the ability to identify problems since Corporate interestst don't want the problems known, or solved.

In America the Corporate campaigns to maleducated the public into believing that ozone depletion isn't/wasn't a problem, acid rain isn't/wasn't a problem, smoking isn't/wasn't a problem, global warming isn't a problem etc. are all examples of effective Soviet like control over freedom of expression.

2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2012
Once that crap stops floating over the Pacific and choking me I'll be happy to shut up about it. China needs to go get #$%#ed. Right in the @$$.
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 06, 2012
Once that crap stops floating over the Pacific and choking me I'll be happy to shut up about it. China needs to go get #$%#ed. Right in the @$$.

I have a home in Korea, and when the wind blows from China, it really is crazy bad. Sometimes you cannot 1km in the daytime. The Koreans and the Chinese both pretend there's nothing wrong, meanwhile everyone is forced to stay indoors all day. It's no suprise this generation has such bad vision.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2012
Economically motivated, or more likely, a face saving move so the government can avoid having to admit publicly to lying. I had thought this is just an aspect of Chinese culture I don't entirely grasp. Then I read about the proposed legislation in North Carolina (restricting the ability to report predicted sea-level rise), http://www.charlo...sea.html
Politicians vs. reality - the same all around the world.

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