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China bans film on air pollution after praise from new Environment Minister

Film maker, Chai Jing, had 200 million views for Under the Dome in one week before it was banned

Beijing smog as seen from the China World Hotel, March 2003, during the SARS outbreak
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beijing_pollution.jpg / CC BY
Beijing smog as seen from the China World Hotel, March 2003, during the SARS outbreak
China’s Internet Management Office banned internet access to  Under the Dome on 6 March 2015. The film was released on 28 February. On 2 March Chen Jining, the newly appointed Environment Ministerpraised the film as "worthy of admiration" and compared it with Rachel Carson’s book of 1962, Silent Spring, which was one major inspiration for the environmental movement in the United States. 

The Minister said it“promoted “public awareness of environmental health issues.” On 1 March China Daily featured the film and the film-maker. On 2 March The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, published an interview with Chai Jining which praised the film. 

Meanwhile on 1 March, the Chinese Ministry of Truth issued the following Directive “各媒体不得对《穹顶之下》进行炒作,要做好网上舆论调控。” “All media must refrain from further promoting ‘Under the Dome’ Online public opinion [surrounding the documentary] must be regulated.” 

On 4 March the annual session of the People’s National Congressbegan, when 2,987 deputies from across China meet for a couple of weeks. In the opening session, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to work harder to fight pollution, describing it as a "blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts."…"We must strictly enforce environmental laws and regulations; crack down on those guilty of creating illegal emissions and ensure they pay a heavy price for such offences; and hold those who allow illegal emissions to account, punishing them accordingly." 

Speculation is that the film was too topical and too controversial and too popular given the imminent National Congress. Currently the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution of 2010 is under consideration for revision, though that did not happen this year. Chai Jing, financed the film herself and was inspired after her baby was born with a tumour which she blames on pollution.  Like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth of 2007, Chen Jining’s film follows the format of an illustrated lecture. 

The new Chinese environment minister, Chen Jining was appointed on 27 February 2015. A graduate of Tsinghua University with bachelor and master’s degrees in environmental engineering, Chen later obtained a doctoral degree inEnvironmental Systems Analysis, at London’s Imperial College in 1993, and then worked at a researcher in the School of Medicine, at Imperial until 1998. Latterly he has been President of Tsinghua University.

The film Under the Dome with English subtitles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6X2uwlQGQM (accessed 15 March 2015)

Further reading:
Profile of Chen Jining http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/chinas-new-environmental-minister-a-rising-star/ (accessed 15 March 2015) 

People’s Daily, 2 March. Interview with Chai Jing http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2015/03/translation-peoples-daily-interview-chai-jing/ (accessed 15 March 2015) 

China Daily, 1 March,Former TV anchor on crusade against pollution http://www.china.org.cn/china/2015-03/01/content_34918681.htm (accessed 15 March 2015) 

Law of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollutionof 2010, text in Mandarin and English http://www.chinalawedu.com/new/23223a23228a2010/20101223shangf113436.shtml (accessed 15 March 2015) 

Premier Li Keqiang statement at the opening session of the People’s National Congress. http://www.dw.de/chinas-national-peoples-congress-opens-with-lower-growth-forecast/a-18294399 (accessed 15 March 2015)

“Twelfth Five-Year Plan” on Air Pollution Prevention and Control in Key RegionsSecretariat for Clean Air Alliance of China, supported by the Energy Foundation, translation of originalissued by Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and Ministry of Finance, approved by State Council in September, 2012, document released to public on December 5, 2012 http://www.epa.gov/ogc/china/air%20pollution.pdf (accessed 26 March 2015)

Allen R. Carlson Pollution may now be so bad that Chinese leaders are forced to confront it
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/china-declares-war-pollution-12464 (accessed 26 March 2015)


Source of Report

People’s Daily, 2 March. Interview with Chai Jing http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2015/03/translation-peoples-daily-interview-chai-jing/ (accessed 15 March 2015)

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25. Mar 2015
Reported by Robert Holden, London

Keywords

air pollution (en), atmospheric pollution (en)

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