Climate change

Green activists spend 100,000 yuan on NY Times ad aimed at Xi's environmental policy

Mainland pair use New York Times to call on new leaders to fight pollution and warming

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 8:54am

Two grass-roots environmental activists have run an advertisement in The New York Times calling on China's new leaders, including Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, to honour Beijing's commitments on tackling pollution and fighting global climate change.

Titled "Congratulations to the new generation of China's leaders," the quarter-page advertisement was published on page A24 of the newspaper's national section last week.

"We hope the promise is kept to protect the environment," the advertisement said, in English and Chinese.

Veteran environmentalist Wu Lihong, from Wuxi, Jiangsu, and another peasant activist, Chen Faqing, from Zhejiang, jointly paid more than 100,000 yuan (HK$123,000) to place the advertisement.

"If we, two peasants, are willing to pay to promote environmental justice and awareness, why can't our top leaders, especially the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, do something meaningful to help reduce pollution?" Wu asked.

Wu, once a national hero for blowing the whistle on polluters who defiled Lake Tai in Jiangsu province, was jailed for three years on extortion charges in Wuxi in August 2007. He was widely seen as a victim of political persecution initiated by provincial and Wuxi authorities, who were embarrassed by Wu's vigorous one-man campaign against industrial pollution.

"Despite the fact that I've been wronged for speaking the truth and I still have to suffer from constant police harassment two years after my release, I am still hopeful that Xi and his generation of leaders will be different from their predecessors," he said.

Chen, famed for exposing pollution problems in his hometown near Hangzhou and sponsoring environmental protection advertisements in mainland and overseas newspapers, said the advertisement might be their last hope of attracting the top leadership's attention.

"We've tried everything we could to raise the alarm over rampant environmental problems and help Beijing's anti-pollution drive over the past two decades, but the pollution simply gets worse and worse right under the nose of the government [led by outgoing President Hu Jintao and retiring Premier Wen Jiabao ]," he said.

Chen said he had initially tried to run a similar advertisement in the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, but it had been rejected.

The new leadership had enshrined "promoting ecological progress" into the party's constitution, the two activists said. However, "mainland official are apt to talk about environmental protection, but we have witnessed exactly the opposite," Wu said. "That's why we stress the importance of matching their words to their deeds."

The ad said China and the United States jointly account for more than 40 per cent of global of greenhouse gases, and both governments should take the lead to break deadlocks and deliver concrete results at the United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar, scheduled to end today.