China on Tuesday objected to the US embassy in Beijing issuing the city’s air quality reports, saying it violated both international conventions and laws of the land.
Within hours of a minister with the environment department expressing displeasure, the foreign ministry too backed him up, saying that the US and other embassies that release such reports should immediately stop doing so.
The US embassy has been releasing Beijing’s hourly air quality data since 2008 on Twitter but this was possibly Beijing’s first public objection.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin didn’t specify when asked what action China could take if the embassies don’t heed the warning but said authorities here will have no problem if missions do it for their own diplomats and staff without releasing the data.
Liu said air quality monitoring by foreign diplomats was inconsistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and urged diplomats to abide by China’s laws.
Beijing’s air is notorious for pollution and many local citizens step out only after wearing anti-pollution masks.
China’s US snub over weather reports came soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Beijing as a state guest leading a big entourage of top businessmen and 80 journalists. His first state visit after beginning his new term as President, Putin will also participate in the 12th Shanghai Cooperation Organisaton (SCO) summit, beginning Wednesday.
Earlier, Wu Xiaoqing, a vice environmental minister, told reporters only the Chinese government is authorised to monitor air quality information and data from other sources may not be standardised or rigorous.
As per the Associated Press, the US embassy’s readings are based on a single monitoring station within embassy grounds, and pollution levels are rated according to a US Environmental Protection Agency standard that is more stringent than the one used by the Chinese government.