May 29, 2018 06:42 PM

Regulators Push for Case-by-Case Anti-Pollution Approach

Tourists swarm into Beijing’s Forbidden City during unusually heavy smog on May 12. Photo: Wu Gang/Caixin
Tourists swarm into Beijing’s Forbidden City during unusually heavy smog on May 12. Photo: Wu Gang/Caixin

China is revising its anti-pollution policies to avoid a “one size fits all” approach that regulators fear has put a chill on economic growth and unfairly targeted some businesses.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Monday released new guidelines for environmental protection inspectors and regional regulators that will curtail heavy-handed measures in enforcement.

Those who fail to comply with the new rules could be penalized and will be held responsible for any problems that ensue, the ministry added.

The move comes as the central government has sent experts to 10 provincial-level areas for a new round of pollution inspections.

It also comes amid growing dissent among some of the public over controversial practices initiated by local regulators to meet anti-pollution targets, particularly those that were part of the clean-air campaign of 2013 to 2017.

Plants and even some stores were ordered to close or suspend operations during the campaign, dampening local economies and often disrupting daily life.

In Central China’s Henan province, for instance, closures hit some smaller merchants, such as corner shops and businesses making steamed buns and repairing tires.

The new round of inspections should continue putting pressure on polluters, but regulators should factor in local conditions from city to city and sector to sector when enforcing the policies, the ministry said in the document.

The ministry singled out several sectors in which inspectors should keep an eye on potentially heavy-handed local authorities, including in civic projects, hospitality, and agriculture.

Regulators should not order legitimate businesses to close or suspend operations en mass simply because there is a need to fight pollution, the document said. Regulators and inspectors should deal with licensed businesses on a case-by-case basis even if they have failed to meet anti-pollution requirements.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (

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