China blames social unrest on anger over pollution
The head of China's environmental agency has blamed the rising number of riots, demonstrations and petitions across the country on public anger at pollution.
Echoing the language of the Cultural Revolution, Zhou Shengxian called for a "struggle" against polluters, and said the public refused to accept the increasing degradation of the environment.
His unusually outspoken comments underscore the frustration of state mandarins at local government officials who ignore environmental standards in order to attract investment, jobs and bribes.
Breakneck growth has turned China into a huge environmental disaster area. A soon-to-be-published World Bank report says some 500 000 people die each year as a result of pollution.
Beijing is trying to shift the economy on to a more sustainable development track. The state council -- China's Cabinet -- tightened the water pollution law to require more testing, licensing and stiffer penalties, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
But factory owners who violate state guidelines are often protected by local officials. According to Zhou, the state environmental protection administration chief, many plants build secret pipes to discharge polluting chemicals. Others release toxins when locals are asleep.
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