World

China tells weather bureaus to stop issuing smog alerts

BEIJING: China is suspending local meteorological bureaus from issuing smog alerts, the media reported yesterday.

The move raised suspicions that the government is attempting to suppress information about the country's air pollution as public anger over the issue grows.

China's Meteorological Administration notified local bureaus on Tuesday to "immediately stop issuing smog alerts", according to a photo of a notice posted on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.

Instead, the local departments can issue alerts for "fog" when visibility is less than 10km, according to the notice.

The notice was issued because local "meteorological bureaus and the environmental protection administration often disagree when they issue smog-related information", a representative from the China Meteorological Administration told the Chinese website The Paper.

"A joint alerting mechanism will be formulated to consult how to and who should issue alerts for smog," the representative said.

One department will now be responsible for issuing smog alerts, The Paper reported.

The reports were met with stinging criticism from online commentators who have long doubted the credibility of official data on air pollution.

"Before, they cheated us separately, and now, they are going to cheat us together," one person said on Weibo.

"Even though they are working on a unified alert standard, they should not stop the existing alert system," another wrote.

The Chinese government has a colour-coded system of smog alerts, with red for severe pollution that is likely to last more than 72 hours.

CONTRADICTORY ALERTS

In the past, local and national authorities have issued contradictory and confusing alerts.

Earlier this month, many took to social media to express their anger about the smog that choked Beijing for over a week around the New Year. But they found their posts deleted, a move that only increased their frustration.

"When people are gagged, the sky will be blue," said one sarcasm-laced Weibo comment. - AFP

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