An online documentary about pollution that has attracted more than 300 million viewings since it was launched a week ago is now being blocked on some Chinese websites.
The internet documentary can no longer be viewed on at least two Chinese websites. They are Youku (similar to You Tube) and People.cn, the site on which well-known investigative journalist Chai Jing chose to launch "Under the Dome", and which is linked to the People’s Daily newspaper.
Some reports about the documentary have also disappeared from the internet, and from popular social media tool Wechat. There has also been less reporting on air pollution in mainstream media during the National People's Congress meeting this year.
This year, Li’s annual government work report to the NPC made only one mention of smog from air pollution, though accompanying documents set out specific targets. Li said smog management needed to be strengthened, and old and substandard cars removed from the roads.
The government’s propaganda department has issued one of its frequent reporting guidance notices, requesting the media to cease reporting on “Under the Dome” during the annual meeting of the NPC, that began on March 5th. It also requested stronger management of blogs, social media platforms such as Weibo and Wechat, and mobile phone applications.
At the end of “Under the Dome”, Chai Jing thanks many people, including some government employees. Now some people she lists say they are coming under pressure. “This has made the public think we are supporting Chai Jing,” said one, who asked to remain anonymous.
Chai Jing’s film targeted the energy industry, arguing the smog problem is to a large extent is their fault.
A senior executive of a major oil company has responded with a critical article. Wan Zhanxiang, Deputy Head of Engineering at Sinopec’s quality and standards management department, says, “Perhaps she lacks knowledge or hasn’t thought enough. There were no meaningful points made. Actually, what she talked about were old-fashioned European and American methods of pollution management that have been around a long time”.
Wan reckons China’s smog problem can be summarised simply: “Every single Chinese is involved in making smog, but control, management, and abolition of smog is the government’s responsibility. The success of other countries’ smog management also proves that it is a government responsibility.”
Environmental protection is the topic that has attracted most concern among Chinese people in recent years. In 2014, a media monitoring group attached to China Youth Daily reported that environmental management overtook corruption as the most discussed topic online; smog was the most discussed of all environmental topics.