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First case in China against poison air

- Citizen sues government on pollution

Beijing, Feb. 25 (Reuters): A man in a smog-ridden northern city has become the first person in China to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution, a state-run newspaper reported today.

China’s north is suffering a pollution crisis, with the capital Beijing itself shrouded in acrid smog. Authorities have introduced anti-pollution policies and often pledged to clean up the environment but the problem has not eased.

Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, submitted his complaint to a district court asking the city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”, the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said.

He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents for the choking pollution that has engulfed Shijiazhuang, and much of northern China, this winter.

“The reason that I’m proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims,” Li was quoted as saying.

It was unclear whether the court would accept Li’s lawsuit.

Chinese citizens have the right to appeal through legal means and the lawsuit reflects increasing environmental awareness among the public.

Li said he had spent money on face masks, an air purifier and a treadmill to get indoor exercise in December when the pollution was particularly severe. “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary,” he said.

The government has invested in clean-air projects and empowered courts to mete out stiff penalties for infringements but enforcement has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often depend on taxes paid by polluting industries.