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'Under the Dome' smog film taken down on Chinese web sites

"Under the Dome", a documentary about air pollution, has been taken down on some Chinese websites after becoming an internet sensation

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(Image by Lu Guang / Greenpeace

An online documentary about pollution that has attracted more than 300 million viewings since it was launched a week ago is now being blocked on some Chinese websites.

The internet documentary can no longer be viewed on at least two Chinese websites. They are Youku (similar to You Tube) and People.cn, the site on which well-known investigative journalist Chai Jing chose to launch "Under the Dome", and which is linked to the People’s Daily newspaper.


Some reports about the documentary have also disappeared from the internet, and from popular social media tool Wechat. There has also been less reporting on air pollution in mainstream media during the National People's Congress meeting this year.

Premier Li had more mentions of air pollution in his 2014 speech, where he spoke about smog twice and used strong language, saying the smog clouds regularly covering China were expanding, and that nature was “giving a red light” to China’s current development model. He also stressed the need to enforce the air pollution prevention plan.

This year, Li’s annual government work report to the NPC made only one mention of smog from air pollution, though accompanying documents set out specific targets. Li said smog management needed to be strengthened, and old and substandard cars removed from the roads.
 
Media told to stop reporting

The government’s propaganda department has issued one of its frequent reporting guidance notices, requesting the media to cease reporting on “Under the Dome” during the annual meeting of the NPC, that began on March 5th. It also requested stronger management of blogs, social media platforms such as Weibo and Wechat, and mobile phone applications.
 
Previously published reports about the documentary on People.cn are no longer available. chinadialogue journalists have noted that since March 6th mainsteam media like CCTV have not reported on the documentary, and have carried very little reporting on air quality.

At the end of “Under the Dome”, Chai Jing thanks many people, including some government employees. Now some people she lists say they are coming under pressure. “This has made the public think we are supporting Chai Jing,” said one, who asked to remain anonymous.
 
An environmental protection expert who asked to remain anonymous told chinadialogue that Chai Jing’s film was very good, adding that nobody can do everything 100% right.
 
Possibly the reason “Under the Dome” has been blocked online is because she took aim at the major state enterprises, he said, adding that the fundamental reason for environmental pollution is lack of law enforcement as vested interests block it. “But in order to control the environment, you must rigorously enforce the law. This is the problem the new Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining needs to face, “ he said.

Chai Jing’s film targeted the energy industry, arguing the smog problem is to a large extent is their fault.

A senior executive of a major oil company has responded with a critical article. Wan Zhanxiang, Deputy Head of Engineering at Sinopec’s quality and standards management department, says, “Perhaps she lacks knowledge or hasn’t thought enough. There were no meaningful points made. Actually, what she talked about were old-fashioned European and American methods of pollution management that have been around a long time”.

Wan reckons China’s smog problem can be summarised simply: “Every single Chinese is involved in making smog, but control, management, and abolition of smog is the government’s responsibility. The success of other countries’ smog management also proves that it is a government responsibility.”

Environmental protection is the topic that has attracted most concern among Chinese people in recent years. In 2014, a media monitoring group attached to China Youth Daily reported that environmental management overtook corruption as the most discussed topic online; smog was the most discussed of all environmental topics.

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匿名 | Anonymous

缺乏透明度和法律法规

大部分的中国问题是由于缺乏透明度和法律法规。不论中央政府的政策规划多么完善,多少贪污的官员被逮捕,人们还是很容易地去做任何他们想做的事情。显而易见,媒体的言论自由是最有效地迫使官员遵纪守法的方式,且不会牺牲一党制的原则。如果他们甚至不允许用书面的方式去承认一个严重的问题,又怎么能让人们相信他们真的有关注去解决这个问题呢?

lack of transparency and rule of law

Most of China's problems are related to the lack of transparency and the rule of law. No matter how well-planned the central government's policies are, and how many corrupt officials it catches, it will always be easy for people in positions of power to do what they want. Media freedom is the most obvious way the party could force its officials to follow the law without sacrificing one-party rule. If they won't even allow a documentary about a problem they admit is severe, how can anyone believe that they're really interested in solving the problem?