Over the weekend the New York Times reported on a unique urban escape of the Chinese governmental elite – not to penthouse night clubs or secluded spas, as you might expect, but to pockets of clean, purified air. From Politburo Standing Committee meetings to cross-city car rides, government officials are using expensive air purifiers to create transient spaces free of the ubiquitous Beijing smog.
Which makes a recent online uproar over inaccurate air pollution monitoring in Beijing all the more scandalous.
As the BBC reported, discrepancies in air quality reports from the American Embassy and the Beijing government have been driving an online “microblog” campaign to force Chinese officials to fix their air monitoring program, which currently ignores fine particulate matter, the most dangerous air pollutant. The American Embassy monitors fine particulate matter, along with other sources of air pollution, and releases daily air quality reports that often describe Beijing air as “hazardous” when official government reports describe only “moderate” or “low” health risk. Bloomberg media describes the differences between these monitoring programs in detail.
Last week web celebrities began polling Beijing citizens on whether the government program needs to be fixed. A clear popular consensus has emerged: over the weekend tens of thousands of those polled clamored for new pollution monitoring standards. It looks like government officials may soon have to buy more air purifiers.