Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue 10

(January 23, 2012) In this instalment of Weibo Watch: grassroots social activism takes off. Socially innovative schemes that encourage citizens to, for example, carry supplies to needy areas when they pass through, are blooming thanks to microblogs. Meanwhile, more and more netizens in different cities are taking action to monitor air quality levels for themselves, following the shocking accusation that Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau had stopped collecting data from two of its monitoring sites years ago because the data revealed damning pollution levels.

On October 26, the state-run news agency, Xinhuanet posted this comment on its website. It was subsequently widely circulated and debated in November and December on Weibo: “Don’t let environmental protection activist become a sad hero.” The warning was prompted by the experience of Jojo, a 26-year-old independent environmental protection film director, and the creator of several outstanding independent environmental documentaries.

Jojo responded via @导演乔乔JOJO: “My crew named, ‘Protect Ecological Environment Through Photograph and Film’ have been shooting along the Yellow River for four years. We have spent millions of RMB shooting footage. But now we are facing a financial crisis and are running out of money. As we watch pollution along the Yellow River increase and its ecology be destroyed and birds die, our crew is helpless …” @导演乔乔JOJO: 用光影保护生态环境”摄制组在黄河上拍了4年,花费几百万,早已弹尽粮绝,目前苦于没有摄制经费、拍摄用车和摄录设备,眼看着黄河被污染、生态被破坏、鸟类被虐杀,我们却束手无策 …

The comment first made by Xinhuanet, implied that the government should support environmental protection activists with environmental protection funds, that more citizens should protect the environment, and that interaction among government, corporations and the public should be promoted. In fact, environmental protection funds are usually diverted and spent by other departments and groups which have no role in environmental protection work. @尘覆:昨天新华网发表评论:别让“环保狂人”沦为“悲情英雄”。 http://t.cn/SPF6fg评论称,政府环保资金有必要、也有能力对乔乔(@导演乔乔JOJO)这类“公益心大发”的“环保斗士”进行奖励或资助,激发更多民众的环保公益心,促进政府、企业和公众之间良性互动。可惜的是环保资金屡屡成了“唐僧肉”。

The independent geologist Yang Yong @中国河流杨勇, who has been exploring China’s mountains and rivers for more than 20 years, is so committed to his research and environmental protection work that he constantly faces financial challenges. An online shop on Taobao.com announced via the shop owner’s Weibo account, @天边暖了晓珊, that: “This shop promises to donate 1 RMB for each sale to support Yang Yong’s work.”             分享博文:【楠牌】1元捐赠计划!支持民间独立科学家杨勇“为中国找水”! 推荐给@头条博客 http://t.cn/asIC1K 【楠方周末】帮派博文:http://t.cn/asINuz

IT worker Yu Zhihai, famously known as “Anzhu” on the Internet, is the creator of the micro charity platform called 1 KG More. It suggests that travelers carry 1 kg of books or supplies to donate to schools in remote areas when they are traveling through, in order to improve local education conditions. His socially innovative schemes are blooming, thanks to the development of microblogs. Yu invited people to attend a brainstorming session on November 25 via Weibo @安猪安心做猪: “We focus on social designs, turning an NGO project into a public activity can be designed by anyone. Next Wednesday afternoon (November 30th), we will hold a brainstorming meeting on how to design rubbish classification systems in a place nearby Gulou. Please join us if you are interested. Send me a private message to introduce your interest and background.” 【头脑风暴寻人】我们关注如何通过社会化的设计把NGO项目转变成人人可组织的公众活动,下周三(11月30日)下午我们将进行一次垃圾分类项目的开源化设计的头脑风暴,地点在鼓楼附近(北京),欢迎有兴趣的朋友参加。请向我私信报名,并在报名中简单介绍你的兴趣和背景。

On December 6th, Yu posted this: “Redefining Micro Public Benefit Activity. Micro public benefit activity means not only that everyone donates goods and services, but also that everyone organizes and designs activities voluntarily, making ordinary citizens the host of public benefit activities. A micro benefit activity qualifies as such if it is open, low cost and community based. 1 KG More and 1 KG Box projects are designed based on these principles. In our next steps, we will try to do more, including transforming NGO projects into micro public benefit activities and initiating new projects. Please joined us if you are interested in MPBA.” 【重设微公益】微公益不仅是人人捐款或人人志愿,更应该是人人组织和人人设计,让普通人成为公益的主人。微公益项目满足以下几个特点:开放、低成本、社区化,@多背一公斤@一公斤盒子 即按这个思路设计。接下来我们会进行更多尝试,包括NGO项目的微公益化以及新项目设计,有兴趣的朋友请加入我们。

A Beijing citizen, @检测达人, who volunteers with an environmental protection NGO called Green Beagle, uses a machine to monitor PM2.5[i] levels and reports them continuously to the public.

Another citizen, @江睿FDU, in Shanghai posted this message: “On December 4th, 2011, I submitted a request to the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau on the Shanghai municipal government’s website, asking that the daily PM 2.5 readings for November at 24 air quality monitoring sites be released to the public. (The measurement method follows the HJ618-2011 standards regulated by the Environmental Protection Ministry.) Please pay attention to this request.” @江睿FDU: 2011年12月4日,通过上海市人民政府网站向上海市环保局在线提交政府信息公开申请,申请公开的信息描述为“上海市24个pm2.5空气质量监测站监测的2011年11月份30天pm 2.5监测数据(测量方法按照国家环保部hj618-2011标准规定的方法,请提供30天每天的24小时平均值)”,欢迎大家关注申请结果。

Meanwhile, @头条新闻, released this news on December 3rd: “The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau refused a netizen’s formal application for the release of PM2.5 data to the public [Editor’s note: Particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) is referred to as “fine” particles that are believed to pose the greatest health risks]. On November 19, Beijing netizen Yu Ping submitted a written request for the public disclosure of PM2.5 data. Two days later, he received a verbal response: “The data is only available for research purposes, and not for public release.” The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau gave him a written response on December 2nd, which was the formal rejection of his request. Yu Ping said he would not give up his attempts to secure the release of this information.” 【北京市环保局正式回绝网友公开PM2.5数据申请】北京网友于平11月19日向北京市环保局书面提出关于北京PM 2.5数据信息公开的申请,两天后接到口头答复称,数据仅供研究用,不能公开。而在昨日,北京市环保局正式以书面形式回绝,于平表示不会就此放弃信息公开的要求。http://t.cn/SbT5r4

On December 12th, the environmental organization China Dialogue @中外对话 posted: “This week, Du Shaozhong, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau’s vice-director, tried to comfort citizens online by denying Steven Q. Andrews’[1] shocking accusation that the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau had stopped collecting data from two monitoring sites in 2006 because the data revealed damning pollution levels. Responding to China Dialogue’s request, Steven Q. Andrews provided evidence, all of which came from government documents, to substantiate his accusation.” Battle of the Blue Skies, and Beijing’s Hazardous Blue Sky. 本周,一直忙于在微博阵线上安抚民意的杜局长公开否认了安雪峰文中最惊人一项指控:北京环保局从2006年起就停止使用两个空气污染最严重监测站的数据。应中外对话的要求,安雪峰拿出了大量佐证,并且全部证据材料都来自官方的档案… 《北京“蓝天”不蓝,问题出在哪? 》http://t.cn/StUZx5

More and more netizens in different cities are taking action to monitor PM2.5 levels in order to disclose the real air quality data. On December 14th, netizen @廖新1 posted: “Day 45, the China News Agency released a report yesterday saying the Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau is monitoring PM2.5 levels and will release the data to the public at http://t.cn/StCtFt. Unlike the coastal city of Guangzhou, Chengdu is at the bottom of a geographic basin, under a heavy haze, which means it needs to monitor its PM2.5 levels. I urge Wang Wenbin, an official with the Chengdu Environmental Protection Bureau, to implement the promise he made in December to monitor air quality in Chengdu. I also urge the American Embassy office in Chengdu, @美国驻成都总领事馆,to report air quality data – your ‘colleague’, the American Embassy office in Guangzhou, @美国驻广州总领事馆, has been reporting the air quality data.” 【第四十五天】昨中新社新闻:广州环保局已监控Pm2.5将公布数据 http://t.cn/StCtFt 。比起靠近海洋的广州,成都地处盆地底部,阴霾重重,更需监控。望成都环保局王文斌兑现12月监控的承诺,同时也拜托 @美国驻成都总领事馆 发布空质数据——因为您“同事”@美国驻广州总领事馆 已经发布。

Other citizens, meanwhile, cannot wait any longer. Coordinated by Green Beagle co-founder Feng Yongfeng, @冯永锋, netizens in different cities have been donating money to buy equipment so they can independently measure PM 2.5 levels and monitor the air quality themselves. The latest news from Feng Yongfeng’s Weibo account was posted on January 4th: “Test Air Quality for Our Mother Land. We have collected donations to buy portable PM 2.5 monitoring equipment (25,000 RMB each) for Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Wenzhou. Now we are fundraising to buy equipment for Wuhan: 300.14 RMB left in the fund from Wenzhou will be transferred to the Wuhan fundraising project. Dear friends, please work hard to raise funds for the Wuhan air quality monitoring project. Donate 25.00 RMB or a multiple of this amount.” #我为祖国测空气# 继为上海、广州、温州募集到一台价值25000元的便携式PM2.5检测仪后,现在起为武汉募集。原本为温州募集剩余的300.14元,滚动到为武汉募集的项目中。请热心朋友们继续努力啊。支持25元,或者25元的倍数。继续延用此前的账号:中国农业银行北京人定湖支行,6228480010811247815,肖楠。

Freelance photographer and documentary director @王久良 Wang Jiuliang’s documentary film, “Beijing Besieged by Waste,” was selected by film critics from Sight and Sound as one of the most impressive movies. Here is an excerpt of their comments: “This arresting documentary, at once eerie and urgent, explores the mountains of refuse that breakneck urbanism has produced in the Chinese capital. One image – of the splayed, yet oddly restful, corpse of a man who had assembled a tiny shack amidst an enormous wasteland – has haunted me like no other in 2011.” @DSL_CineMag:英国电影杂志《Sight and Sound》邀请了101位影评人,每人选出五部自己2011年看过的印象最深的电影。其中两位美国影评人分别将@黄伟凯导演的《现在是过去的未来》,@王久良导演的《垃圾围城》列入自己的名单。看看他们的简评 http://t.cn/Sx8vuA

See the trailer for “Beijing Besieged by Waste”:

http://video.sina.com.cn/p/ent/m/m/2011-10-27/170761541537.html

The following is a Google Earth map of Beijing, with the center indicating downtown Beijing. The areas marked in yellow are garbage dump sites on the outskirts of Beijing, that Wang Jiuliang visited. His photo exhibition and documentary, “Beijing Besieged by Waste,” was shot at these locations.


[1]: Steven Q. Andrews is an environmental consultant based in Beijing. He recently completed a JD at the UCLA School of Law, and previously studied geosciences at Princeton University. His research on Chinese air pollution began while he was a Princeton-in-Asia fellow in Beijing during 2006-2007.


[i]: From the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency:

What is PM2.5?

Particulate matter, or PM, is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small that individually they can only be detected with an electron microscope. Many manmade and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are referred to as “fine” particles and are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs. [Emphasis added].

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