Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue No. 1

(August 23, 2011) Weibo Watch summarizes the week’s environmental news, direct from the hearts and minds, and the keyboards, of China’s netizens as they work for change in the way decisions are made in their communities across China.

August 10: Friends of Nature @自然之友, China’s first environmental organization, released their second-ever public opinion survey on the topic of the country’s growing water crisis as it affects six cities – Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Zhengzhou. Their groundbreaking survey found that more than half of the citizens interviewed are aware of the water shortage in cities, and consider the growth of urban areas, pollution, and inefficient water use to be the three main causes of the urban water crisis. The results are currently being translated. Read the original findings in Chinese here.


August 9: Public derision followed a story posted by environmental writer, Feng Yongfeng @冯永锋, describing a local government plan in the Meri Snow Mountain area of Yunnan (surely one of the world’s most naturally beautiful locations), to build 12 man-made lakes so photograph seekers will have lovely scenery to snap away at. http://t.cn/aR68WJ

@冯永锋:云南梅里雪山(卡瓦格博)所在地政府宣称要造12个人工湖,以满足摄影发烧友的需要 http://t.cn/aR68WJ

On the same day, China’s State Forestry Administration announced in the media that hunters from overseas would now be able to shoot blue sheep (a wild species of sheep) and Tibetan antelopes, both second-class protected animals in China. The founder and CEO of Galactic Computing, a developer of the supercomputing blade system, and an academic, Steve Chen (verified by Sina Weibo @陈世卿院士), responded to the news thus: “According to media reports, all hunted animals have prices. For example, $10,000 to kill a garlali, $2,500 for a blue sheep, $6,000 for a red deer, $1,500 for a Tibetan antelope, $200 for a wolf, and the most expensive – a wild yak – will cost $40,000. Paying for this is called ‘legal hunting.’ Not paying for this is called ‘illegal hunting.’ The animal protection department is treating wild animals as a renewable resource. If we don’t make use of these wild animals, they imply, their natural death is a waste. This is the same logic as that used by the dam builders’ coal bosses[1] – who take the position that “if we don’t build a dam to generate power with the water, the water will flow to the sea and be wasted.” @陈世卿院士媒体报道猎杀的野生动物都有价格,如1只盘羊1万美元、岩羊2500美元、马鹿6000美元、藏原羚1500美元,狼200美元,最贵的野牦牛4万美元。交了钱叫合法狩猎,没交钱就是犯法。动物保护部门把野生动物也当成一种可再生资源,如不利用,就自然死亡浪费了。这逻辑与小水电站的“煤老板”有异曲同工之妙

August 8: The Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Ma Jun @公众环境研究中心马军, reported via his Weibo account that China Central TV reporters were besieged by Fujia Dahua petrochemical plant staff in an attempt to stop the reporters from investigating a possible leak of chemicals into the sea following a hurricane (http://news.cntv.cn/20110808/118465.shtml). The controversial Fujia Dahua petrochemical plant is only 20 kilometers away from Dalian city. Citizens in the area had no idea the plant had been approved until it was too late – public opposition followed when it began operating in 2005. To read recent news coverage on the Fujia Dahua protests, see: Protest in China prompts chemical plant shutdown and The march of China’s new middle class.

@公众环境研究中心马军:央视记者专程前往福佳大化采访时,遭遇这家企业数十名员工围殴。http://t.cn/aR5rNw 福佳大化项目距大连市区仅20公里。当初在立项和运行当中就收到老百姓的争议,但是更多老百姓在立项开始的时候都是根本不知情的。

August 6: More and more citizens have taken to Weibo to publicize human rights violations and cases of injustice, appealing to the whole of society for help. Netizen @lyf2233 is one of them. He or she – we are not sure – took to Weibo on August 6 to reveal the details of an egregious personal case, uploading scanned copies of official documents.

@lyf2233 writes: “My home is at Beidun group, Zhongguan Village, Deqing County, Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province. A chemical factory in our village, Taiji Huagong, has been polluting our environment for nine years. (Editor’s note: the factory was established in 2002). My uncle, whose family name is Lu, negotiated with the factory on behalf of the Beidun community. After signing the agreement, he was arrested by the police on a charge of extortion. But my uncle negotiated with the factory in the interest of the community! (Editor’s note: The agreement he signed promised compensation for villagers, the clean-up of pollution as a result of factory operations, and payment for the rental of land from 2002 to 2014. This agreement was signed on June 27, 2011). Why accuse him of a criminal charge? My uncle has been detained for 37 days. We have already received the arrest warrant. The whole family is helpless.”


Hundreds responded to @lyf2233’s plight. Here are just a few:

An Internet activist and IT professional @佐拉 offered: Speak out about what you know, initiate an Internet campaign. I can provide you with some advice. 说出你所知道的故事,展开网络呼吁,我可提供指导

A project manager with the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology @郭霞SEE said: On the one hand, prepare for a lawsuit; on the other hand, try to get media coverage of your case. Do both with great effort. There are experts and lawyers in the legal aid center at China University of Political Science and Law. Feng Yongfeng @冯永锋 has media resources, Ma Jun @公众环境研究中心马军 can help to detect which brand the polluting factory is supplying. 一手打官司,一手争取媒体报道,两手抓两手都要硬。政法大学法律援助中心有学者和律师,@冯永锋老师有媒体资源,@公众环境研究中心马军老师可以帮你查查污染企业是哪个品牌的供应商。

Li Bo @李波fon, the director of Friends of Nature, asked: Has Taiji Huagong been fined? What products does it produce? Where are these products sold? Can anyone help check these facts? 请问泰极化工有没有受过什么处罚?其产品是什么?产品销售到哪里?大家能帮查一查吗?

A netizen @菜虫伤不起 said: You have my sympathy. There is a cement plant near my aunt’s home. The villagers protested and petitioned before it was built, but all efforts were useless. 关注,我姑家边上有个水泥厂,当时建前村民也曾反抗上访,可惜无用功一场

Another netizen @大唐_书生 said: This kind of micro, inorganic, base acid factory has no scale advantage (Editor’s note: according to the company’s online profile, Taiji Huagong only employs five staff members and boasts a mere ¥500,000 in registered capital). It is not located in an industrial zone, and is likely making money by secretly disposing of its waste. Most of these operations are the result of an agreement between the local officials and the businessmen involved. You need to dig for information about the involvement of the local environmental protection bureau’s director. 这种小型的无机酸碱的工厂没有规模优势,又不在化工园区,靠偷排放污水赚钱,大都有官商背景。应该曝光该地环保局长的资料!

At least ten lawyers gave their feedback on this case. @袁裕来律师 said: In addition to defending your uncle directly, we can also initiate an environmental lawsuit, which is best made in the form of an administrative lawsuit (against the local government). 除了直接辩护,可从环保诉讼着手包抄,尤以行政官司为佳。

[i] “Coal bosses” is the term to describe free-wheeling Chinese businessmen who have accumulated great personal wealth by evading liability for damages, taxes, and worker safety, often with the acquiescence and the participation of government officials. They are famous for their lavish and extravagant lifestyles. The term “coal bosses” originates in the coal industry which has a very high death rate for miners, making the term synonymous with “seeking personal wealth, ignoring safety.”

Categories: Voices from China

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s