Date Posted: 13:17 30/10/2004
China Youth Daily goes green
Environmental protection may be one way for Chinese reporters to show a bit of mettle
WHAT HAS been going on at China Youth Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Youth League? Its political credentials might be impeccable, but it was also the first Chinese newspaper to expose itself to the brunt of market forces, placing it – like so many other newspapers – in the difficult position of having to make profits and please the apparatchiks at the same time.
The tensions erupted earlier this year, when Lu Yuegang, the deputy director of the news department, wrote a spectacular tirade against the intervention of Party officials in the content of the newspaper. He said, essentially, that journalists at CYD could no longer be expected to merely regurgitate (or 'shit what you eat') the propaganda issued to them by their party superiors. Some speculated that Lu – perhaps a pawn in some wider political struggle - had acquired some powerful patron in the higher levels of government.
Still, while the newspaper is still eating a good proportion of the shit issued to it by the propagandists, it has also been producing some hard news stories recently, particularly in the field of environmental protection, where it has clearly been spurred on by the outspoken, combative deputy-head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), Pan Yue.
On Thursday this week, CYD ran one of many stories about Pan, who said that environmental injustices were now compounding social injustices, and that well-off areas were sacrificing the ecology of poorer ones. On the face of it, Pan's words were far from controversial. The fate of Shanxi Province is well-known: its environment is ruined, its ancient monuments are blackened by dust and its cities are sinking as a consequence of overmining. Now, NGOs and environmentalists are concerned that a similar fate seems to await Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi in the southwest. Still, the frankness with which Pan Yue has been allowed to berate and cajole China's industries has been noted, most recently in the New York Times.
China Youth Daily's Friday special report concerned the debates over the Nu River, the country's remaining virgin waterway and one of the key battlegrounds between environmentally conscious NGOs and China's increasingly powerful electricity companies. Wen Jiabao, a former geologist and thought to be more attuned to the issues of environmental protection than most of his peers, stepped into the debate earlier in the year, forcing the suspension of all hydropower projects on the river until proper research had been conducted into the impact on the local ecology and the effects on local communities. However, most believe that the suspension will be temporary, and that construction will begin sooner or later. The proposed submerging of the celebrated heritage site at the Tiger Leaping Gorge does not give much grounds for optimism.
Still, as Youth Daily has been pointing out, NGOs have been increasingly active, and local communities more vociferous in their opposition.
Friday's Special Report, entitled, 'Government attitude: Voices raising questions are probably the voices that contribute the most', seems on the face of it to be a paean to the role of the NGO. The report covers the United Nations Symposium on Hydropower and Sustainable Development, held in Beijing this week. According to the NDRC, joint organizers of the conference, the conference was aimed at 'bringing everyone with an interest together, allowing them to discuss the functions of the current and future development of hydropower and sustainable development'.
Are these discussions useful? On Thursday, a spokesman for the NDRC told the symposium that they would pay attention to dissenting voices, but could not possibly abandon the development of hydropower. End of story.
And that is how it will no doubt come to pass, apart from the 'paying attention to dissenting voices' bit, it seems. This week, just as Pan Yue was making his speech, 50,000 local people had gathered at the Pubugou Hydropower Plant in Sichuan to complain about the pitiful standards of compensation offered by the power company in charge. The armed police soon arrived in force.
Go Back To Headlines