A man living in a smoggy northern city in Hebei province has become the first person in the country to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution, a state-run newspaper reported.
The unusual lawsuit came as residents in Beijing queried why their city government did not suspend schools while Hebei set up special medical teams as a response to the prolonged spell of smog.
Li Guixin, who lives in Shijiazhuang, filed a legal complaint to a district court, asking the city's Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to "perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law", the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said.
He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents over the choking pollution that has engulfed the city and much of the north of the mainland this winter.
"The reason that I'm proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we're the real victims," Li was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Li said he had spent money on face masks, an air purifier and a treadmill to get indoor exercise last December when the pollution was particularly severe.
In Beijing, which has been shrouded in stinking smog for more than a week, authorities raised the pollution alert to the second-highest "orange" danger level for the first time on Friday after drawing public ire for its ineffective response.
"Of course, on days where pollution levels reach or even exceed the scale we are very concerned and we have to see this as a crisis," Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organisation's representative in China, said.
Watch: Chinese weather officials: 15 per cent of China blanketed in heavy smog
Some Beijing residents have called on the city government to activate the red alert for smog - the highest level on the four-tier system - as the hazardous pollution continued to shroud the capital yesterday.
When a red alert is activated, kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools close. The city also bars half the cars from the roads to reduce vehicle emissions. "Why does the government still refuse to upgrade the alert to red? The kids have been sucking in filthy air for nearly a week," a Beijing resident said on Sina Weibo.
Hebei provincial health authorities have set up a special team of 20 senior medical experts to provide guidance to treat smog-related diseases, such as asthma, pneumonia and cardiovascular diseases, the provincial party committee's mouthpiece the Hebei Daily reported.