By Erik Crouch
Because pollution only hurts if you have data.
This must come as a huge surprise to residents who have been clutching their chests and coughing phlegm while reading cheery air quality reports. A recent study has unveiled that “most city governments on the mainland withheld vital information on pollution from the public,” in an attempt to protect local pollution-heavy industries from losing profits due to government restrictions. Top of the list—surprise!—are Datong and Yangquan, two of the country’s largest coal production sites.
South China Morning Post reports:
The researchers said they had grown used to the persistent lack of transparency in mining and industrial centres over the years, but had been surprised this time  by the large number of cities that took big steps backwards.
Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs director Ma Jun said it was an alarming development.
“This is totally new to us,” he said. “We have never seen so many cities, about 35 per cent of the total, stepping backwards.
“They have significantly slowed down after promising progress on transparency in recent years.”
A key reason for the increase in secrecy was local protectionism, the report said, with some city governments choosing to sacrifice the environment in their blind pursuit of economic growth.
Nothing too surprising here, aside from the fact that they got caught so publicly. Numerous environmental groups throughout China have called on the violating local governments to disclose their pollution data, although there is a
snowball’s chance in hell clean lung’s chance in Hebei that they’ll get full disclosure anytime soon.