Pollution can't be controlled if first response is to hide it

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Carmen Liu Ka-man

Environmental protection needs honest officials, good citizens

Carmen Liu Ka-man |
Published: 
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Villagers gather to protest against pollution from a solar panel factory in Haining, Zhejiang province, on September 17.
Say you are walking on the street with your younger brother, when the ground suddenly cracks and a tall brick wall rises up and surrounds you.

What would you do? Here are a few alternatives you can choose from: 1 Hide it; 2 Ignore it; 3 Climb over it.

Everyone on the other side of the wall tells you to choose the third option, but the mainland government suggests you hide it instead - as your younger brother might laugh at you, which it thinks is the worst thing in the world ...

After three days of protests against pollution from a solar panel factory in Zhejiang province this month, more than 30 people were detained and 100 sent for unexplained "legal education".

The detainees were accused of "seriously disturbing social order".

Although local police did not say how many were injured, witnesses said a good number of villagers were hurt when the police tried to stop their protest rally.

According to the news, we can conclude that, in fact, it was the police and factory workers who "seriously disturbed" the lives of the villagers and were responsible for the leakage of poison that killed loads of fish and irritated the people who live near the river.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have singled out environmental protection as one of the most important issues for the near future.

But how effective can environmental protection plans be when pollution is "covered up" all the time?

Instead of giving a proper response to citizens, the government detains protesters and accuses them of violating the law.

I believe corruption played a big role in this case, since the factory's owner faced no punishment.

Words are not enough for a plan to work.

What is needed are enough resources, honest officials and co-operative citizens.

However, even though there's enough money to pay officials well so they are less likely to become corrupt, the central government would rather use that money to buy weapons. And so it seems honest officials are very rare.

As for the co-operation of citizens, Beijing would need to make a huge effort to stop errant factory owners from dumping illegal toxins into the river.

I heard the mainland has been using poems and other writings from ancient China as part of the moral education of students.

Hopefully, there is room in the curriculum for a few pieces on suddenly rising walls, in case students face one in the future.

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