Harsher air pollution penalties sought

Updated: 2014-04-28 07:16

By An Baijie (China Daily USA)

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Chinese lawmakers are seeking harsher punishment for air polluters, amid increasing demand from the public for better air quality.

Lawmakers should speed up their efforts to expand the punishment of those who illegally discharge air pollutants, said Shen Yueyue, vice-chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on Saturday.

Shen made the remarks during a seminar on the revision of the law on air pollution prevention and control. The seminar, organized by the Environment and Resources Protection Committee of the NPC, was attended by lawmakers from provincial people's congresses.

The NPC Standing Committee plans to revise the air pollution law late this year. The law, adopted in 1987, has been revised twice, in 1995 and 2000.

Ji Zhenhai, a lawmaker in the Hebei Provincial People's Congress, said that the current law is too lenient for air polluters and the revision should focus on increasing punishment.

"Only when businesses pay a heavy price for polluting the air will they become more self-driven to abide by the law," Ji said, adding that the revised law should further specify punitive measures to accelerate law enforcement.

Under the current law, air polluters can be fined a maximum of 500,000 yuan ($80,000) for discharging pollutants in serious cases. The law does not have any provision for government officials who are held responsible for air pollution.

Sun Gang, a lawmaker from Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, said local governments should be responsible for air quality and officials should be evaluated according to their performance in air pollution prevention and control.

On Thursday, the NPC Standing Committee passed long-delayed revisions to the environmental protection law, the country's fundamental environment law, which stipulates heavier punishment for polluters.

Under the amendment, to be enacted on Jan 1, enterprises will be named and shamed for breaking environmental protection laws. Those responsible will face up to 15 days of detention if their companies refuse to suspend production following a ban.

The amendment rules state that if a business illegally discharges pollutants and is fined and asked to correct its wrongdoing by authorities, but refuses to do so, the enterprise may face a fine that accumulates daily. Previously, enterprises faced a one-off fine.

The Chinese public has been hugely concerned with air pollution in recent years amid worsening air quality.

Yu Minhong, founder of New York Stock Exchange-listed New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc, said during a forum on April 21 that there were only five days without smog and haze in Beijing last year, if "judged by the strictest standard of the world".

Yu, who is also a political adviser of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that his son suffered from fever, cough and cold more than 10 times within two months earlier this year after returning from overseas, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

Some international companies have also increased the hardship allowance of their employees due to China's air pollution. For example, the Japanese electronics firm Panasonic announced in March that its employees in China will receive compensation pay for air pollution.

Xinhua contributed to this story.


(China Daily USA 04/28/2014 page4)