Chinese group says to name-and-shame air polluters
By Nao Nakanishi
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has suffered more than 4,000 violations of air emission standards in the past four years, some involving major foreign companies, a prominent Chinese non-governmental group said on Thursday.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs NGO, made the assertion at the launch of a Web-based monitoring service in Hong Kong which names-and-shames polluters and is compiled from government data.
The launch of the Web site comes two days after the International Olympic Committee said it would reschedule events at next year's Beijing Games if polluted air in the Chinese capital was a threat to athletes.
"Information is a powerful tool," Ma told a news conference, organized together with international environmental group WWF.
"These sort of tools can help all these multinational companies, like Wal-Mart, who are outsourcing so much from China, to manage their suppliers in a more responsible way."
The China Air Pollution Map (http://air.ipe.org.cn) is the second such Web site launched by the group.
The China Water Pollution Map Web site (http://www.ipe.org.cn) has made public details of about 9,400 water violations since last year, including those involving up to 280 foreign firms.
The water map has led 50 companies, including two local players, to respond. Two have cleared their names so far. To get their names removed from the blacklist, the companies need to comply with the rules and undergo a third-party audit.
"When they (international companies) approach some of the suppliers, the first thing they ask is how much discount they can give this year," Ma explained.
"You are pressuring the company to further compromise on their environmental standards to keep their competitive edge."
Last year, Ma was named China's "green man of the year," an award sponsored by several government ministries for the water map. Time magazine also named him as one of the world's 100 most influential people last year.
With Hong Kong suffering from increasing air pollution, caused partly by a booming manufacturing sector across the border in the Chinese province of Guangdong, Ma also urged people to help put factories under pressure to clean up their acts.
"People from Hong Kong can do one thing: pressure Hong Kong companies to disclose their discharge data," he said, adding there were about 80,000 factories owned by Hong Kong residents and operating in Guangdong.
While Guangdong, together with Hong Kong, has developed an efficient system to monitor air quality in the region, it has been reluctant to disclose corporate records, he said.
For example, the government of Shenzhen in Guangdong showed there were 1,200 polluting factories in the city, including more than 600 foreign companies, but it failed to name any, he said.
Nevertheless, Ma was hopeful that Guangdong could change, especially as Beijing is to introduce new rules in May which require all companies to disclose discharge data within a month of a violation. Enacting the rules could be a problem, he added.
"China copies rules and regulations of the Western countries but the rules are not enforced properly," he said.
(Reporting by Nao Nakanishi; Editing by John Ruwitch and Jeremy Laurence)