A Chinese man, Li Guixin, who is a resident of Shijiazhung, capital of Hebei province, has become the first person in the country to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution.
Mr Guixin submitted his complaint to a district court, asking the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”, the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said. He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents for the choking pollution that has engulfed Shijiazhuang.
“The reason that I’m proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims,” Li was quoted as saying by the newspaper. It is unclear whether the court will accept Li’s lawsuit. His lawyer, Wu Yufen, declined to comment, telling Reuters “this information is quite sensitive”.
Li said he had spent money on face masks, an air purifier and a treadmill to get indoor exercise last December when the pollution was particularly severe. “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary,” he said.
Northern China has in recent days been suffering its worst air pollution crisis in months. Authorities have introduced countless orders and policies and empowered courts to mete out stiff penalties but enforcement has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often depend on the taxes paid by the polluting industries.
The National Meteorological Center has raised its smog alert for northern and central China. “Of course, on days where pollution levels reach or even exceed the scale we are very concerned and we have to see this as a crisis,” Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in China. “There’s now clear evidence that, in the long term, high levels of air pollution can actually also cause … lung cancer,” he said.