Air quality in Beijing, a city of around 20 million people, has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels since the beginning of this year. Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities on Oct. 21, forcing schools to suspend classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.
Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities, Beijing, on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.
The smog not only forced all primary and middle schools to suspend classes, but shut the airport and some public bus routes, the official Xinhua news agency reported, blaming the emergency on the first day of the heating being turned on in the city for winter. Visibility was reportedly reduced to 10 meters. The smog continued for more than 24 hours.
Air quality in Chinese cities is of increasing concern to China's stability-obsessed leadership because it plays into popular resentment over political privilege and rising inequality in the world's second-largest economy. Domestic media have run stories describing the expensive air purifiers government officials enjoy in their homes and offices, alongside reports of special organic farms so cadres need not risk suffering from recurring food safety scandals.
The government has announced plans over the years to tackle the pollution problem but has made little apparent progress. Users of China's popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site reacted with both anger and bitter sarcasm over Harbin's air pollution.