Donate today to keep Global Voices strong!

Our global community of volunteers work hard every day to bring you the world's underreported stories -- but we can't do it without your help. Support our editors, technology, and advocacy campaigns with a donation to Global Voices!

Donate now

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

China: 750,000 annual pollution deaths

Last week it was noted that the Chinese government convinced the World Bank to remove the number of premature deaths—750,000in China each year related to air and water pollution along with 30% of the report, ‘Cost of Pollution in China‘, allegedly on the grounds that the truth would fuel social unrest, later saying otherwise the report just would have been too thick.

Just over a week later, the Chinese people have not risen up in furious nationwide riots. However, bloggers are not letting the government off the hook for this.

Lian Yue, originally a columnist primarily for Guangzhou‘s Southern Metropolis Daily, has turned his Eighth Continent blog into an environmental watchdog force. Early morning on July 4 Lian posted the excised version of the World Bank report, which brought in many comments:

[匿名] banny [222.64.105.*] @ 2007-7-4 4:20:43
看过An Inconvenient Truth难以忽视的真相,深知环保的重要性!

I've seen An Inconvenient Truth, and it's hard to overlook the truth now, so aware of the importance of protecting the environment!

[匿名] k [89.2.109.*] @ 2007-7-4 5:40:56

Who's gonna translate this? Hurry up and get it out before the Ministry of Propaganda bans it, it's our only hope.

[匿名] 歇菜吧你 [85.195.123.*] @ 2007-7-4 6:48:47



That's why nobody believes “the central” didn't know beforehand about the dying, the child slaves, the torture, the abuse, the mine disasters, the corruption, the abuse of power, the suffering of the people…the government leaders were shocked…

They control your thoughts, collect intelligence, monitor people's performance and efficiency (the great leader Mao once said ‘even if half the Chinese people die, no worries’. This is just a newer, prettier redrawing of that picture. These tyrant beasts are unconquerable…..

[匿名] zissan [222.69.220.*] @ 2007-7-4 8:18:21

Read your history books. The goal of any such top-to-bottom reform is the maintain/extend the rulers’ authority and nothing else.

[匿名] 自由枪 [219.142.2.*] @ 2007-7-4 8:56:11

The people living in the cities have it good, we don't just enjoy social welfare that our countryside brethren don't, but the government's protection too. We die without even knowing the reason, and we can't even pass away angry or with regret. You see how stable and harmonious society is?!

[匿名] 大刀向鬼子们的头上砍去!!! [218.1.217.*] @ 2007-7-4 12:34:47

Chop the demons’ heads off with an ax!!!

[匿名] shizhao [210.72.12.*] @ 2007-7-4 14:51:35

Is this report the excised version?

[匿名] kobe [218.90.151.*] @ 2007-7-4 20:43:27

It's a virus~

Closer to noon that same day, Lian followed up with some statistics:

中国是世界最大二氧化硫(环境危害: 对大气可造成严重污染,可导致酸雨)排放国

China is the world's second-largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (environmental harm: creates serious atmospherere pollution, causes acid rain)
China's seven main rivers are unsafe for human consumption for more than half of the people who drink from them
Of the 13 target levels of air and water pollution specified in China's 15th 5 year plan, 10 have yet to be reached, the worst being the sulphur dioxide in densely populated areas and quality of ground level water. Ninety percent of urban rivers and streams are pollution, many haven't had fish for years.
Ocean and lake water is seriously pollution. Seventy-five percent of lakes are flooded with algae which eat up the oxygen
In rural areas, 2/3 of village populations can't use the tap water. Drinking water pollution remains severe. Drinking water often fails to meet standards. Non-tap water by far most seriously violates standards, the reason being surface pollution. As pollution drinking water causes cancers of the alimentary tract (stomach cancer, kidney cancer, urinary tract cancer), the rate of disease outbreak and mortality rates far exceed that of the world and for urban areas.


[匿名] 生于82 [219.237.196.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:23:35

I think we have reason to walk every day

[匿名] fxl [61.157.91.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:28:49

Since we're not going to live, Lian Yue you might as well organize a suicide society, to put pressure on the government. Make amends or we all kill ourselves.

[匿名] 红蔷薇 [218.1.88.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:30:42

Not so fast, don't force them to hurry. If the dog rushes to jump over the wall, we're the ones that will suffer.

[匿名] 红蔷薇 [218.1.88.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:34:23

fxl, don't get so worked up
In this mystical land, violent demonstrations and non-violent demonstrations are all useless.
We need to find a….strategy. Something that carries Chinese characteristics.

[匿名] 500cc [205.160.53.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:34:40

Organize people to each translate a piece of it, get it out quick

[匿名] 代号党中央 [218.17.249.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:50:30

In this day and age nothing is reliable. I think all the imagination that China's 5000 years have come up with, in today's society, has all been dried up. People who are still fully able to associate could never have imagined that China would end up the way it has today. With human society such a cancer that it is, the China Threat theory isn't so bad. Only the threat from the government and the military has turned into a threat from the environment. This is what's most deadly. I estimate that by 2020 Chinese people will pretty much have to wear oxygen masks like aliens do just in order to to live normally.

[匿名] 狼的传人 [125.77.255.*] @ 2007-7-4 10:51:43


Look, just by leaving a comment I've already violated Xiamen's laws.
I'm really proud of myself!

[匿名] 我是奴隶 [121.42.104.*] @ 2007-7-4 11:13:36

Disgraceful China!! Pitiful China!! Tragic China!! Despicable China!! Hateable China!! Ridiculous China!!

[匿名] navsicaa [59.61.94.*] @ 2007-7-4 14:04:33

Making public these truths is too important. Yet how many people do? Even though the present laws allow anonymous posting. People like you who dare raise the alarm are few and far between.
As with environmental propblems, the price to be paid for internet pollution is that you don't see the relevant investigative reports. What's the solution? More opinions, more information; it benefits quality.

[匿名] 南越夜风 [210.21.35.*] @ 2007-7-4 14:06:03

Next up just might be the environment erases the Chinese people.

[匿名] 圣人末尊 [222.90.169.*] @ 2007-7-4 15:07:01

Just wait until there's another Chernobyl
And again a stupid-ass level of Communism can be exposed to radiation…

[匿名] 公民甲 [222.131.150.*] @ 2007-7-4 15:26:35

Just look at Beijing, where 70% of air pollution is caused by traffic.
Everybody just think, do you have responsibility? Especially SUV drivers, how much responsibility do that have?

[匿名] blueduck [218.5.65.*] @ 2007-7-4 15:47:09

Nobody dares believe these outside reports. Although these truths may be the case, who is it that kept the Chinese people poor for so long? And anyway, most people hope for development, hope to change their lives…all that can be said is that extreme development will one day bite us back, and to hope that the government will make adjustments in time to change their game plan…otherwise never mind about overseas, here at home we won't be able to handle it.

[匿名] 如果可以选择 [222.128.41.*] @ 2007-7-4 17:49:22

[匿名] 11 [218.85.192.*] @ 2007-7-4 18:21:26

Living by the sea is far better off than living inland, you don't know how bad the air is in here! Any city, take your pick! Because you have air moving in off the water.

[匿名] 1313 [125.203.77.*] @ 2007-7-4 19:41:11

If you want to die, go die in Tiananmen Square, just don't get taken away, erased without a sound or peep, you poor deluded people!

[匿名] 我本善良 [218.85.115.*] @ 2007-7-4 22:16:58

The government says releasing this will cause social unrest, not that the data needs to be refuted; you can see that the numbers are credible.
Making them public will give rise to consquences that worry the government? Is the government just using this as an excuse? To not make them public, to hold them back at length, that will cause social unrest.
They still don't feel the need for reform? What are they waiting for, the day when all the people of China live in hell? Speechless!

[匿名] 一个母亲的誓言 [210.21.224.*] @ 2007-7-5 17:50:45

For our right to exist, and for our childrens’ too—fight!

From what Google brings up, Sohu blogger Shuidao523 posts the now widely-spread translation of an FT journalist Richard McGregor article which compares environmental reformers in China to the doctor in Henrik Ibsen‘s An Enemy of the People, an allusion that Phoenix TV reporter and Rose Garden blogger Lu Qiu Luwei also picked up on in a July 4 post:


This my be a play written a hundred years ago, but if we swap the main character for a conscientious and honest average Chinese citizen, and the scene to a Chinese city, if the main character stood up and told everyone that the factory sewage was polluting the local river, that the only solution was to shut the factory, at this time, with what sort of response would he be met? If, similarly, he was laid siege to by the factory management and officials, for having damaged the factory owner's interests, for depriving local officials of their source of achievement, and also for the drop in GDP that the factory closure would precipitate, at this time, would the public, unaware of the truth and kept from the truth by officials and big business, feel this truth-speaker to have ulterior motives, seeking to damage everyone's nice life. Would they see him as an enemy of the people?


We're not so unfamiliar with this scene, right? Because we've seen it happen before. When those controlling speech don't allow truth to enter the public sphere, truth then becomes demonized, and will of the people will stand opposite the truth. But the problem is, truth will always see the light of day. If and when the people realize they've been cheated, what they once saw as an enemy of the people then becomes the hero, and the double forces of dissatisfaction and rage come spilling forth. Ibsen displayed this simple reasoning to everyone over a hundred years ago.


Speaking now to the World Bank report from March, until now it can be seen on the World Bank website, and it does not include some content now being discussed between the World Bank and Chinese government, that being the part about environmental pollution leading to the deaths of Chinese people, and whether or not that amounts to 750,000 lives each year or not. Britain's Financial Times had an extremely detailed report today, everyone can go take a look. Over whether or not this content could be made public, the World Bank and governmental departments debated for quite some while, and then sought to create “an enemy of the people” and alert everyone, all the better to let know know the truth earlier. Or else, when the enemy of the people became the hero, the reaction might have been much harder to deal with.


Even now, the world we live in still needs ‘enemies of the people’ as written by Ibsen, simple people with enduring truths and persistent consciences. Because there are such people, we are unable to live in lies. Moreso because there are such people, some future possible hidden troubles are revealed before they become disasters. If it's handled well, we can storm any crisis. People like this start off lonely, maybe will even stay lonely for a long time, rejected by many, even stonewalled. However, these kinds of people are happy, and this kind of happiness comes from within, from an authentic conscience in regards to this society. Only when it comes from these will you have a truly significant simple person.

Sohu bloggers Huang Canqiang and jiao2006 have a roundup of a few of the many other places around where discussions on the World Bank report are taking place, including a picture from one of them:


Sohu blogger Global Warm, as with dozens of other blogs at this point, reposts the FT translation, prefaced by some projective pondering:



Truth at anytime is precious.
But to speak the truth, that's actually easiest.
To avoid certain facts, you can put on blindfolds for a while, but in the end they will still see the light of day.
Now that the environment problems have been made public, will it give rise to social problems?
Sometimes, these subjects really are quite tricky.

Now the most important reason was for stability; maybe we'll need thirty or fifty years to understand: for today's spot of stability, just what exactly have we paid?

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site