Beijing air pollution
The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing's more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures.
Even Mao's wearing a mask: jokes and parodies abound as Chinese poke fun at smog problem
As smog blanketed one-quarter of mainland China this week, frustrated residents in major cities, including the Chinese capital, have used humour to vent their frustration and anger.
Poignant jokes and funny images - some doctored to make a point - have gone viral on social media as Beijing and other cities experienced an unusually long week of smog, causing concern and increasing discontent at the government's failure to curb worsening pollution.
Even Chinese President Xi jinping who took a walk in a popular Beijing tourist area on Tuesday, without wearing a mask, has became the butt of jokes.
"My friend ran into Xi Jinping at the tourist area today, and he was fortunate enough to get a photo taken with [Xi]. And the Beijing mayor who was also there," went one joke. But the attached photo showed only a thick layer of smog, without any humans visible.
Another viral photo showed the famous portrait of Chairman Mao - but this time he is wincing with eyes closed and half his face covered by the now-ubiquitous white face mask.
On Tuesday, a viral post on Sina Weibo claimed that Beijing decided to give citizens a day off on February 29, 30 and 31 because of the smog.
Though people soon realised it was a joke, many argued that schools should be closed on smoggy days to better protect children from the hazardous weather.
Another widely shared joke recalls Xi Jinping's statement: "Make socialist core values as pervasive as the air." Chinese netizens quipped: "Also as toxic?"
Xi Jinping: "Make socialist core values as pervasive as the air." Chinese netizens: "Also as toxic?"
— Offbeat China (@OffbeatChina) February 26, 2014
Carl Bildt, a Swedish diplomat and ex-prime minister, who happened to be visting Beijing this week, also commented on the smog on Sina Weibo.
"I certainly hope that smog eases [in the] next few days. Unpleasant and hazardous now. Our countries must work more intensely together on air quality, environmental and global climate issues. Sweden has much to offer, " he said on weibo on Monday.
Beijing experienced one of its worst months of pollution in January last year, when only four days were smog-free, according to Chinese media reports.
Watch: Chinese weather officials: 15 per cent of China blanketed in heavy smog