I’ve seen this piece of news a couple of times over the past few days and, since it was Earth Day this week, the idea of the environment and pollution in China seems like a pretty timely topic.
So, here’s the deal: Heilongjiang Province’s Environmental Bureau holds a meeting to discuss environmental law enforcement in 2009, and they invite journalists to attend. But the catch? They refuse to make public the list of companies who are illegally polluting the environment. A number of journalists were so incensed by the environmental bureau’s actions that they actually left in the middle of the meeting.
Here’s the gist of why the journalists are angry and an on-the-fly translation:
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According to “Government Information Public Disclosure Regulation”, “Environmental Information Public Disclosure Methods (Draft)”, this is information that needs to be disclosed to the public. The 4th regulation of the “Environmental Information Public Disclosure Methods (Draft)” clearly states that China’s environmental bureaus should adhere to the principles of justice, equality, convenience for people, and objectivity, and, in a timely and precise manner, publicly disclose the government’s environmental information. What reason does the Heilongjiang Environmental Bureau have to not disclose the status of those illegally polluting companies? Furthermore, the information that the journalists are interested in is also the information that the public is most interested in as well. It is also the most powerful weapon we have for controlling those illegally polluting industries. How can the Heilongjiang Environmental Office keep this secret from the media and the public? This not only disturbs a journalist’s right to interview, it also undermines the general public’s right to information and right to supervision.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising this is happening, given the huge benzene spill that hit the Songhua River in late 2005:
HARBIN, China, Nov. 25 – A toxic 50-mile band of contaminated river water slowly washed through this frigid provincial capital on Friday, leaving schools and many businesses closed, forcing millions of people to spend a third straight day without running water and raising fears of a long-term environmental disaster.
Well, it’s Earth Day — as for the “Happy Earth Day”, I’ll leave that up to you.