China's tough new law hits 350 polluters

The revised environmental protection law showed its teeth in its first two months, with more than 350 polluters receiving severe punishments, the national environmental watchdog said on Monday.

Considered the toughest measure against pollution to date, the new Environmental Protection Law, which took effect on Jan 1, levels stiff penalties on polluting companies, especially with its stipulations that polluters must pay daily fines for violations and with no ceiling on the total.

In the first two months of the year, 15 polluting companies were hit with daily fines, the largest one paying a total of 1.9 million yuan ($303,000). The total paid by the 15 reached 7.23 million yuan, which represented "a good beginning of the revised law", according to Pan Yue, the deputy minister of environmental protection, on Monday.

In addition, the environmental authorities have ordered more than 120 polluting companies to stop polluting, even if that means suspending production, he said.

The companies have complained that the tough measures are suffocating them, but the penalties will work to force companies to adopt new technologies, Pan said.

In fact, the fines and number of punished companies, though already large, can go higher, said Li Qingrui, head of the policy bureau of the ministry.

The authorities can go further to regulate polluters with the revised law if governments smooth their supporting processes, including reviews of the damage, through improved policies and regulations, he said. "The new leadership of the ministry will make every effort to curb pollution."


Equipment at a watchmaking plant is sealed by a member of the environmental supervision team of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Jan 4 after the company was found to be seriously polluting the surrounding environment. [Photo/China Daily]

Chen Jining, the former head of Tsinghua University was nominated as the new minister on Feb 27.

With changes of leadership and growing public attention, air pollution is expected to draw considerable attention from more than 5,000 legislators and political advisers gathering for the annual two sessions.

At the first news conference of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, air pollution was mentioned along with other hot topics, including corruption, on Monday.

Lyu Xinhua, spokesman for the CPPCC National Committee, told foreign and domestic reporters that he expected blue sky would be maintained with the help of the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

For the two sessions, some environmental researchers suggested that legislators and advisers should push to regulate governments' management of projects and improve the legal system underpinning environmental protection.

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