Civilians take to Twitter-like site, Sina Weibo, to criticise the government
Beijing – Arabstoday
Public anger concerning China’s dangerous levels of air pollution, which has blanketed Beijing in acrid smog cloud for days, spread on Monday as state media queried official transparency and the nation's
breakneck development, with some even calling for a "genuinely democratic" flow of information.
The media joined Internet users in calling for a re-evaluation of China's current pace of modernisation, which has seen rapid urbanisation and dramatic economic development at the expense of the environment and public health.
"It has been dark with pollution for three days now,” one user said on China’s Twitter-like website, Sina Weibo. “At least people are starting to realise how important the environment is.”
The country's tightly-controlled media has previously raised concerns over health problems linked to industrialisation. Observers say the statistics' increasing availability has forced them to confront the issue more directly.
State media quoted experts blaming low winds for the recent crisis, claiming fog had mixed with pollutants from vehicles and factories and had been trapped by mountains north and west of Beijing.
Officials in China have a long history of covering up environmental and other problems.
In an editorial on Monday the state-owned Global Times called for more transparent figures on pollution and urged the government to change its "previous method of covering up the problems and instead publish the facts.”
"The choice between development and environmental protection should be made by genuinely democratic methods," the paper said. "Environmental problems shouldn't be mixed together with political problems."
The paper ran a story on differences between air quality index [AQI] figures given by Chinese authorities and by the US embassy in Beijing - which are correlated with but not directly equivalent to pollutant concentrations.
The Xinhua state news agency criticised the "pollutant belt" that had spread across the country and warned that the authorities' stated goal of building a "beautiful China" was in jeopardy.
"A country with a brown sky and hazardous air is obviously not beautiful," it argued.
The latest spate of media criticism follows a hugely controversial scandal involving the liberal newspaper Southern Weekly which last week published an editorial calling for the Chinese government to realise “the dream of constitutionalism.”
State-owned media rallied behind the government in criticising striking newspaper workers and defending nationwide censorship. However, media organisations usually supportive of the government, including the Global Times, have been quick to condemn over widespread health and environmental concerns in Beijing.
Chinese civilians also took to the country’s alternative to Twitter, Sina Weibo, to express their disapproval.
"This pollution is making me so angry," one user said, posting a picture of herself wearing a face mask.