Chinese construction worker locked up for burning old tyres to keep warm in freezing temperatures

Man who was working at night in country’s frozen north was detained for five days after being targeted by environmental protection officers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 7:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 2:23pm

A construction worker in northern China has been detained for polluting the air after burning plastic bags and old tyres to generate heat while working on a cold winter night in a case that has prompted questions about whether the local authorities enforce the law consistently.

The worker, surnamed Wang, was found burning waste materials by an air pollution patrol team working under the Public Security Bureau in Xinzhou, Shanxi province, China News Service reported.

Wang, along with a few other workers, was working overtime at night, when temperatures fall well below freezing point, at a construction site.

A representative from the local environmental protection bureau was quoted as saying that the worker was arrested because he “did not respond to goodwill advice” from the patrol officers.

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The local Public Security Bureau in Xinzhou told the news website Thepaper.cn on Thursday that it was a decision made by several departments but did not provide further.

Wang was detained for five days for polluting the air.

But the move has sparked intense debate online as some internet users expressed sympathy for the plight of those working outdoors in cold weather while others speculated that the authorities were targeting poorer and less privileged groups.

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“It is so unfair that the workers can’t even warm themselves while working so hard during a winter night while those of you in the environmental protection bureau are enjoying the heater indoor,” said one Weibo user.

“They only dare to arrest those who are weak and do not have a voice in the media,” said another.

A representative from the local environmental protection bureau told Thepaper.cn that the local authorities do not only target ordinary workers, but also business owners and even local officials.