China to Conduct Probe of Faked Air Pollution Data, Xinhua Says

China’s environmental protection watchdog will launch a two-year probe to root out falsified air quality data, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Some local governments make monitoring stations fabricate or tamper with air quality data to help meet national pollution standards, Xinhua reported, citing Environmental Protection Vice Minister Wu Xiaoqing on Wednesday. Fake data “severely compromises” the credibility of the government, Wu is cited as saying.

The central government has placed pressure on local governments to meet strict pollution reduction targets as it seeks to stem public discontent over dirty water and air pollution. President Xi Jinping pledged in March at the annual session of the National People’s Congress to punish violators of the nation’s environmental laws with an “iron hand.”

The environmental protection ministry told provincial governments last year to cut air pollutants by 5%-25% by 2017, compared with 2012 levels. China will target more “key” pollutants in 2016 under its next five-year plan, the country’s top planning document, according to officials at the environmental protection ministry.

The Chinese government started including data on pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers, considered the most harmful to human health, in its air quality monitoring in 2012, only after the U.S. embassy in Beijing had been broadcasting the pollutant levels. Ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in November, authorities began blocking the U.S. embassy feed as smog levels rose.

— With assistance by Haixing Jin

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