The issue of China’s smog spreading to other countries requires more scientific research, a foreign ministry spokesperson has said, adding that its environmental ministry is in close contact with its neighbours.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a regular press conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. She was asked about neighbouring countries’ displeasure over China’s smog spreading into their territories, and whether China would consider taking steps such as offering compensation to those in the region.

Hua Chunying
Photo: Global Daily News YouTube screenshot.

That could include Hong Kong, which often suffers from smog blowing in from the mainland.

In January, during a bout of heavy smog in mainland China, the pollution spread to places in Taiwan and Korea, Quartz reported. Wind blowing from the north and northeast also brought pollutants to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department says that particulate matter – fine particles in the air which can pose health risks if inhaled – mainly come from regional sources, rather than local sources. But Hong Kong also produces its own dangerous pollutants from vehicles and power plants.

Hua replied that compensation was an “interesting” idea and said that air pollution was not an issue to dodge.

“As for whether it is China’s air pollution that’s affecting other countries, this requires scientific and professional research – I suggest you go to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection to directly understand the issue.”

webcam smog
Air pollution in Hong Kong. File photo: HKO.

“I understand that the MEP [Ministry of Environmental Protection] and other countries, including neighbouring countries, maintain close communication. We are willing to strengthen international dialogue and cooperation, to promote more and faster development in terms of environmental protection and governance,” she said.

Hua also referred to remarks made by Premier Li Keqiang at a press conference marking the end of the annual legislative session last week.

He said that further research is required to identify the reasons behind the smog. “Blue skies should not, and will not, become a luxury item in the future,” he added.

Li pledged to set up a special fund for scientists to conduct research on the causes of air pollution.

The Chinese government is unswervingly committed to clearing up the air as soon as possible, spokesperson Hua said, but there is a process involved in solving the problem.

In China, public discontent against air pollution is growing, with many criticising the government for a lack of action and even protesting.

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.