A progressive mindset runs in the family for environmentalist Liang Congjie , who founded the mainland's first non-government environmental organisation, Friends of Nature, 11 years ago. Hundreds of green NGOs have since emerged on the mainland, but Mr Liang has stayed at the forefront of the environmental battle, taking the cause to international platforms such as the World Economic Forum. Mr Liang said he believed public awareness of the need for environmental protection was increasing, noting that the problem was among the challenges highlighted in Premier Wen Jiabao's Government Work Report delivered on Saturday. The proliferation of NGOs had played a part in 'pushing and supporting' government policies, said Mr Liang, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mr Liang also lauded the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) for its unprecedented order to halt construction on 30 projects in January. 'The suspension order let people know that Sepa is not a rubber stamp,' he said. 'It can say no to some projects.' However, he noted that Sepa was 'very weak' within the bureaucratic hierarchy. 'It's not that it doesn't want to do things, but there are many things that are out of its control,' Mr Liang said. The suspensions were ordered because the projects' mandatory environmental impact assessment reports had not been approved. However, Sepa gave more than 20 of the stalled projects the go-ahead last month after they completed the relevant procedures - a move described by some analysts as succumbing to pressure from local authorities and other government departments. Mr Liang said green groups needed to continue raising public awareness of the importance of environmental protection. 'The most difficult thing is that society does not understand,' he said. 'Many are saying that protecting the environment has nothing to do with them because they think it's a problem handled by the government.' Born in Beijing in 1932, Mr Liang studied history at Peking University. After graduating in 1958, he taught history at Yunnan University until the Cultural Revolution, when he underwent re-education in rural Jiangxi . From 1978 to 1988, he worked as an editor at the Encyclopedia of China. His grandfather, Liang Qichao , was a core figure in the ill-fated Hundred Days' Reform of 1898, which sought to introduce a constitutional monarchy in the final days of the Qing dynasty. Mr Liang said his interest in environmental issues was sparked in the 1980s by an article warning that township enterprises could have a serious effect on the environment. He said he was shocked by the article. 'In the 1980s, everybody was saying good things about township enterprises because many believed it was the way to improve people's livelihoods,' he said. 'I never thought that somebody would launch such criticisms, and so objectively too.' While his dedication to environmental protection has won him recognition, Mr Liang is also a familiar name for those who cherish Chinese literature, history and architecture. His father, Liang Sicheng , was a famous architect and a key proponent of saving Beijing's old buildings and walls. His mother, Lin Huiyin , was not only an outstanding poet, but also a famous architect who helped design the national emblem and the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square. His parents visited thousands of ancient Chinese sites, mostly in remote areas, to research and record the country's architectural history. They also lobbied hard to protect many of the capital's old buildings. But sadly, Mr Liang said, the old Beijing that was surrounded by historic walls, hutongs and courtyards seems to have vanished. 'This is my place of birth. To me, old Beijing city is my homeland, but now my homeland is being demolished,' he said. 'There are some people now saying Beijing is a second-hand Hong Kong. It's so shameful . . . Now, even a courtyard home can't be protected.'