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Chinese Mayor Apologizes Publicly for Debilitating Air Pollution

In rare move, a Chinese politician acknowledges smog exists

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Consistently ranked near the top of China’s air pollution list, the eastern industrial Province of Hebei, with its coal-burning plants, is notorious for its poor air quality. In a rare admission of guilt, the mayor of Baoding, Ma Yufeng, publicly apologized for the city’s poor air quality while delivering the city’s annual report.

“Among 74 key cities monitored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, our city was ranked at the top of the 10 cities with the worst air quality readings … as mayor of the city, I am deeply upset, guilty, and hold myself responsible. I want to apologize to the residents of our city and to the delegates of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.”

The report wasn’t all bad news, however. The mayor made note of the city’s improved air quality over the past year, which say PM 2.5 readings decline by 4.4 percent. But this has done little to dispel the city’s poor reputation, which has become synonymous with dirty air.

In 2013, Greenpeace ranked Baoding as having the third worst air pollution in China.In 2013, Greenpeace ranked Baoding as having the third worst air pollution in China. Its PM 2.5 density averaged around 127.9 annually, and peaked at 675.

Hebei, a largely industrial province, is heavily dependent on coal-burning. Smoke emitting from one of Hebei’s many chimneys is a permanent fixture of the skyline. Hebei’s neighbouring city, Beijing, which suffers from its own air pollution problem, often blames Hebei as a source of its poor air quality.

Air pollution has become a hot topic in China of late, after former CCTV presenter Chai Jing released a groundbreaking documentary on the causes of the country’s smog that has divided audiences.

Natalie Wang

Journalist based in Hong Kong.