Isn't It Ironic? China Calls For Citizen Activism, Detains Environmentalist


Fishing in Lake Taihu.

Today's big China environment story is an exciting one. While announcing new transparency rules, our favorite Chinese environmental official called for greater citizen involvement to curb the country's powerful polluters. Reuters quotes Pan Yue, reformist vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration: "Relying on the force of environmental protection and a few other agencies is far from enough; we need broad public participation, because the public are the biggest stakeholders in the environment." Sounds great to us, and the new transparency rules, which require officials to disclose often closely-held information about pollution and polluters, will surely be a boon for China's citizen activists.

Unfortunately, one of Monday's big China environment stories casts a dark pollution-like pall over today's. Prominent activist Wu Lihong, named one of China's top ten environmentalists by the national government in 2005, was arrested and detained on April 13th. According to his wife, dozens of police descended on his home, ransacking it and taking his personal effects. The story of the arrest, reportedly for extortion and blackmail, broke on Monday, creating an unfortunate ironic backdrop for Pan Yue's remarks. More after the jump.For over fifteen years, Wu has been monitoring the state of beautiful Taihu Lake, China's third largest freshwater body. The lake is a tourist attraction, a fishing ground, and a major source of drinking water for many, including the citizens of Shanghai. It is also highly polluted. Last March, in an interview with the AFP, Wu blamed local government and business - and their close ties to one another - for the state of the lake:

The government and industry are connected to each other like a chain, they are inseparable. The central government is good but it can't see what's happening here with the local government colluding with the factories.

Over the course of his activist career, Wu has been repeatedly threatened and arrested. In November, despite Wu's protests, his hometown of Yixing was named a "model city" by the national environmental authorities. ::Reuters, ::AFP , Associated Press, and ::Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Also see ::China's Green Revolution: How Far Will It (Not) Go?, ::China Wakes Up Thirsty and Worried, and ::Dark Cloud Over China's Water.

Tags: Activism | China