A Hebei man has filed a suit against the Zhengzhou municipal government in the hope of receiving compensation for the cost of pollution masks after experiencing heavy air pollution whilst visiting the city.

The case was accepted by the Xinxiang City Intermediate People’s Court, The Paper reported. It said it formed a judgement panel on November 25 and notified the municipal government of the proceedings.

Zhengzhou. Photo: Wikicommons.

The plaintiff Sun Hongbin – who volunteers at an environmental protection NGO, said he was on a business trip in Zhengzhou and felt “choked” by the smog. After checking real-time data from the Environmental Protection Ministry, he found that the air quality index (AQI) measure was 253 – meaning heavily polluted.

The city should take responsibility for the quality of the environment in its jurisdiction according to China’s Environmental Protection Law and its Air Pollution Control Law, Sun said.

In his complaint, Sun wrote: “[I] request that the court order the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for the cost of masks purchased during the haze period on November 20, and order the defendant to bear the litigation costs of this case.”

The 25-year-old told The Paper: “I’ve been to Henan a few times before, but I saw that central environmental protection inspectors were stationed here… regular people should also come out to supervise the government’s anti-haze efforts. I thought I should do something too.”

Zhengzhou is one of the most polluted cities in China. In July, 41 Zhengzhou party members and cadres were disciplined for failing to control air pollution in the city, according to state media.

China made amendments to its Environmental Protection law in 2014 which increased public participation, gave environmental authorities more power to punish polluters and made it easier for Chinese NGOs to file public interest lawsuits against polluters.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.