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Hong Kong air pollution

Hong Kong leader CY Leung downplays smog claim after rebuttal by weather chiefs

Chief executive said on radio show that pollutants from city caused smog in Guangdong when wind blew from south

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 9:30pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying drew criticism from current and former Hong Kong Observatory chiefs for claiming that local pollutants had caused smog in Guangdong, prompting him on Tuesday to say his remarks merely referred to views from across the border.

After his “Greater Bay Area” visit last month, Leung said on a radio programme that the pollution appeared to be a two-way issue: when the wind blew from the south, Hong Kong air pollutants caused smog in the province, while Hong Kong in turn blamed Guangdong when the wind blew from the north.

Hong Kong can create its own smog, researchers say

Former Observatory director Lee Boon-ying said in a blog post on Sunday that the combination of wind direction and air stability meant there was little chance of smog from Hong Kong drifting to Guangdong.

He said smog was more common in winter when the air was stable, with air density higher at ground level, which prevented pollutants from spreading. The unstable air of the summer months usually prevented the pollutants from forming as smog.

“There are two conditions for Hong Kong exporting smog to Guangdong: wind blowing from the south with stable air, but the chance of fulfilling the two conditions is slim,” Lee concluded.

Incumbent director Shun Chi-ming shared Lee’s post on Facebook on Monday. After it drew media attention, Shun removed the post from his page and wrote a more cautious post saying Lee’s analysis was true scientifically, but sea winds blowing from the south might bring pollutants inland as well.

“There is no border when it comes to weather and climate change – this is a regional issue affected by the interaction of multiple factors. That’s why we should strengthen cooperation to reduce carbon emissions and overcome climate change and environmental problems,” Shun wrote, reminding Hongkongers to adopt a scientific and rational attitude when discussing the issue.

When asked about his remarks before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Leung said: “It was a saying from the Guangdong [side].”

Christine Loh Kung-wai, undersecretary for the environment, said on a radio programme the same morning it was common sense that mainland China was much larger than Hong Kong, so pollutants from the city could not affect overall air quality in Guangdong.

She said Leung’s remarks were courtesies made in the context of suggesting that the two sides should cope with the problems together as Hong Kong and Guangdong both produced pollutants.

Hong Kong is odd man out in plan to integrate bay area

In addition to the smog controversy, the city’s outgoing leader also responded to accusations that he had started visiting the local community more only when his term was about to end by blaming pan-democrats for holding protests and blocking traffic at venues where he appeared.

Leung, whose term ends on June 30, said different sectors in society were interested in the “Greater Bay Area” integration scheme and he would like to arrange more study tours in the wake of last month’s delegation.

Beijing’s plan for the 11 cities in the Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong and Macau, was endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang in his annual work report in March.