Chinese man becomes first to sue government over smog

A man from Shijiazhuang in northern China became the first person to sue the government over smog, Reuters reports. On Tuesday, the state-run newspaper Yanzhao Metropolis Daily broke the story that Li Guixin is seeking compensation for all residents forced to live in choking smog, describing them as “victims.”

“The reason that I’m proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims,” his complaint states. He requests that the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law.”

While China has passed laws aimed at curbing emissions, enforcement is often lax and parts of the country have seen record levels of smog in recent months. This week in particular Beijing is beset by especially dense  smog. In a futile effort to reduce pollution, Beijing  outlawed outdoor barbecues last year.

“Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary,” Li said. He noted he needed to buy face masks, an air purifier, and a treadmill to get exercise indoors as the air quality became too poor to go outside in his city.

Shijiazhuang regularly registered pollution “beyond index,” or beyond the scale which scientists measure pollution, throughout 2013. The World Health Organization announced in a study in October 2013 that extreme air pollution causes lung cancer, similar to smoking.

Li’s lawyer Wu Yufen said he wasn’t sure whether the government would accept the lawsuit. But if not, they can appeal.

Image: Guardian