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January 11th, 2012:

Ambient air quality standard – China

Download PDF : GB3096 環境空氣質量標準

Hong Kong to Widen Pollutants Watch as Beijing Plans to Do More


January 11, 2012, 10:02 PM EST

By Natasha Khan

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) — Hong Kong, facing criticism over its air quality, will measure pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers at all its monitoring stations by March, a week after Beijing pledged to make publicly available similar data.

Hong Kong is testing sampler monitors at nine stations, adding to the five that are already measuring the fine particulate pollutants, Environment Secretary Edward Yau said in a written reply to questions from lawmakers today. Yau didn’t say if the data would be released to the public.

The former British colony’s delay in updating a 25-year air quality standard is drawing criticism from lawmakers and academics, as cities including Beijing and Taipei pledged to improve their monitoring and disclosure of pollutants. PM2.5 particulates are more dangerous than larger ones because they may interfere with gas exchange inside the lungs when inhaled, according to the World Health Organization.

“In terms of the government’s proactive approach to inform the public of pollutants, Hong Kong is lagging behind Beijing,” said Erica Chan, campaign manager for Hong Kong-based advocacy group Clean Air Network. “We need to know PM2.5 levels in real-time to protect our health. If it’s really high I should avoid going outside.”

Beijing will publish its PM2.5 data before Jan. 23, the official Xinhua News agency said Jan. 6. The announcement came after the U.S. embassy in the Chinese capital started releasing its data via Twitter, and state-owned China Daily newspaper said in a Dec. 8 editorial that the government’s initial plan to make data on PM2.5 available by 2016 was “too slow.”

Roadside pollution in Hong Kong was the worst ever last year, the South China Morning Post reported on Jan. 9, citing data from the government’s environmental protection department.

Final Proposal

The Hong Kong government is working on a final proposal to update its air quality objectives, last set in 1987, and plans to submit it to the Legislative Council for discussion “as soon as possible,” Yausaid today. An earlier draft indicated the government will withhold building and operating licenses to companies should they be unable to meet emission controls.

The city’s current air quality standards are too lax and pollution exceeds recommended levels by WHO, Clean Air’s Chan said.

Hong Kong’s central business district has fine particle level worse than 558 cities surveyed by the WHO, the South China Morning Post reported Nov. 25. The WHO survey, which didn’t consider Hong Kong, looked at 565 cities.

“PM2.5 is probably the most lethal thing next to incinerator dioxins that you could breathe,” James Middleton, chairman of Hong Kong-based charity organization Clear the Air, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Safe Levels

Clean Air Network has purchased a monitor and will begin publishing data on PM2.5 levels from 5 p.m. today via its Twitter and Facebook page, Chan said.

WHO’s air quality guidelines set as safe an annual level of 10 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter. Hong Kong’s 2010 PM2.5 levels were 36 micrograms per cubic meter in the Central district, according to data from the Environmental Protection Department.

Each 10-microgram increase above WHO guidelines boosts emergency room visits for cardiovascular ailments by as much as 7 percent, a 2009 study by the Peking University School of Public Health found.

Hong Kong’s environmental department has been working with the government in nearby Chinese province Guangdong to cut emissions in the region, spokesman Y.F. Chau said in an e-mail statement. The efforts yielded a 26 percent reduction in annual PM2.5 concentrations from 2005 to 2010, he said, citing an average taken from five monitoring stations.

–Editors: Tan Hwee Ann, Allen Wan

To contact the reporter on this story: Natasha Khan in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan in Hong Kong

Air Quality

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Pollution brings capital to a crawl

South china Morning Post – Jan 11, 2012

Clear the Air says: meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the Government has stated that the (outdated 25 years old) API roadside readings in Central, Mongkok and Causeway Bay will be ‘High to Very High’ each day for the foreseeable future until the second highest paid bureaucrat in the world of indecision is replaced under the Peter principle.

Air quality in the nation’s capital plunged yesterday morning to pre-Olympic levels again as dense smog blanketed the city, severely disrupting air and road traffic.

Pollution readings from both the local environmental watchdog and the US embassy exceeded the upper limit of “hazardous” for most of the morning, prompting calls for urgent government action.

The thick shroud of smog enveloped the capital just after midnight and visibility was down to less than 100 metres by rush hour in the eastern and southern parts of the city, worsening morning traffic jams.

Tens of thousands of air travellers at Beijing Capital International Airport (SEHK: 0694) were trapped by the heavy smog, as more than 130 flights were cancelled or delayed by 10am, according to Xinhua.

Air traffic resumed in the early afternoon, when strong winds stirred up the stagnant choking air and cleared it from the city.

In an unusual move, the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection made a prompt admission on a popular microblogging site yesterday morning. It said air quality in many parts of the city had hit the lowest level of the country’s five-point air pollution index scale.

Pollution readings from the US embassy, which updates the data hourly on Twitter, surged past 400 micrograms per cubic metre soon after midnight and climbed to 534 by around 5am.

A reading that high is described by the embassy as “beyond index”, as it exceeds the upper limit of 500 on the US air pollution scale.

Only 9pc of forecast 1.67m mainlanders settle in HK

South China Morning Post – Jan 11, 2011

Clear the Air says : do leopards change their spots or can we trust what our politicians  say ?

Fresh proof of government’s scaremongering after top court’s 1999 abode ruling is presented to lawmakers. Now say sorry, officials are urged

Only about 145,000 mainland-born children of Hong Kong parents will end up reuniting with them in the city, a calculation based on recent data and government estimates suggests.

That is less than 9 per cent of the 1.67 million the government predicted 13 years ago would flock to Hong Kong.

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, a project officer of the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace Commission who has been helping abode claimants for more than 10 years, said yesterday at a Legislative Council subcommittee meeting the government owed the claimants an apology.

“How did you get the 1.67 million figure?” she asked. “That was done in 1999, but we still cannot get an answer today … the government and some political parties still use similar tactics today to deceive the public in the migrant workers’ right of abode saga.”

The 1.67 million estimate was made by former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee – now a lawmaker – in 1999 after a controversial Court of Final Appeal ruling that awarded right of abode to children born out of wedlock to a Hongkonger and children born before either parent became a permanent resident.

However, figures in a Legco paper yesterday showed that from 2000 to September 2010, only 64,842 such children had come to Hong Kong on a one-way permit and an estimated 80,000 grown-up mainland children would settle in the city after a new policy announced last year.

In fact, Immigration Department figures show that the total number of mainland one-way permit holders who settled in Hong Kong was only 514,362, less than half the estimate made in 1999.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said: “The government was lying to Hong Kong people at that time and stirred up much fear and exclusionist sentiment. And we only find out it was such a big error now. It is ridiculous.”

Maggie Wong Siu-chu, principal assistant secretary for security, did not answer the criticism directly, only saying the current figure could not be compared with the 1999 estimate.

Ip saw no need to apologise.

“It was a bona fide attempt,” she said. “Officials were acting in good faith. It was our best effort available at that time.”

She said the Census and Statistics Department arrived at the 1.67 million figure through scientific means and no one would have expected the mainland economy to grow so fast in the intervening years that mainlanders now did not want to settle in Hong Kong.

Under the new policy announced last year, children of Hongkongers born on the mainland who were under 14 when their natural father or mother obtained a Hong Kong identity card before November 1, 2001, are eligible to apply for right of abode.

Applications opened in April. So far, the mainland authorities have received 28,286 applications and granted one-way permits to 5,335.

Some single mainland mothers who need to travel frequently to Hong Kong to look after their children have complained they are not qualified to get one-way permits.

Government should stop blaming mainland for the city’s dreadful air

South China Morning Post – Jan 11, 2012

Hong Kong exists under the illusion it is a sophisticated city. Its historical relevance as a trading port and financial hub has faded.

Every day, Singapore and Shanghai become more likely capitals of Asia. This great city has become a polluted playground for hordes of mainland tourists coming to shop, give birth, stuff cash in the banks, drive up housing prices and generally clog up every amenity of Hong Kong. Anyone living here can attest to this new congested reality. The millions of tourists from the north have bolstered the city’s economy, but at what cost?

In the future, Asian cities will be measured not by business potential but liveability. Elsewhere in the world, people’s mindset is already firmly focused on environment and quality of life. If we are to restore our leadership position in Asia, it will be by fixing our environment and developing a broader creative identity for the city, not by becoming the initial public offering capital again.

Hong Kong’s biggest competitive disadvantage is its dreadful air quality, not only because it kills four people a day but because it’s driving away good business. The world’s top executives once considered this city as the place to be. Now their families are sick of the pollution and want out. The government is aware of the issue and has made promises to address it, but the inaction has been stunning. It seems all too complicated for this inept manager of our city.

How bad does it need to get before the government realises the required investment is in the city’s liveability? With recurring annual surpluses, the stumbling block can’t be money. There is sufficient capital available today for Hong Kong to become a leader in urban environmental management.

The government’s paralysis is rooted in denial of the worsening air conditions and a misdirected insistence that the Pearl River Delta’s factories are to blame. The mainland is not the cause of our air pollution problems. The pollution killing Hong Kong residents is home-grown from old trucks, buses, and ships using filthy bunker fuel.

It’s time for Hong Kong to wake up to the new dawn. People care about the environment they live in.

With a few swift, decisive moves, massive improvements can immediately be achieved. This is not revolutionary thought; others are already doing it. We just need to catch up. Nobody cares about the Hang Seng Index if they can’t breathe the air outside the window.

Morgan Parker, Shouson Hill