For some time the powers that be have prevented Chinese news outlets from reporting on the growing air pollution problems in Beijing.
But now with visibility down to just a few feet in the past few days, even the party leaders had to see that the credibility of the Chinese media was seriously at risk if it were not allowed to report on the pollution.
Long before permission was granted, the U.S. embassy in Beijing was taking air quality readings and making those findings available on the Internet. Needless to say efforts to block the online information caused a bit of a kerfuffle. Reports of the air quality from the embassy were posted on Twitter, but of course Twitter is blocked in China.
The embassy has been collecting data since 2008, much to the chagrin of the Beijing municipal and Chinese central governments.
In the past the government has tried to write off the pollution as nothing more than dust coming off the Gobi desert. And that is a part of it this time of year. But the real issue are the poorly enforced anti-pollution laws affecting vehicles and industries.
The issue of pollution — air, water and soil — is sensitive. The government does not want to admit it is doing anything wrong, but smog-filled skies, toxic soil and poisoned waterways pretty much all point to a government that is protecting corrupt businesses and not taking into account what is best for its people. (Yes, the businesses all are tied to the government in one way or another.)
Those who push back against the policies that allow massive pollution to occur are arrested as anti-social or “profiting without a proper license.” (Chinese environmental activist goes on trial over books)