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Climate Politics

China’s Censors Allow Environmental Criticism to Flourish Online

  • Study finds plants cut emissions after social media complaints
  • Authorities tolerated criticism directed at local regulators
A sign warning local residents not to burn trash in order to reduce pollution in Tongling, China.

A sign warning local residents not to burn trash in order to reduce pollution in Tongling, China.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

In spite of China’s intensifying crackdown on political dissent, residents still have plenty of leeway to air their environmental concerns and criticize polluters on social media, a new study shows. 

Public appeals for action made on the social network Weibo reduced pollution violations at industrial plants by more than 60%, according to the study released this month by researchers from the University of Chicago and several other institutions.