China Asks U.S. Embassy in Beijing to Quit It With the Twitter, Already

Photo by SeemsArtless. Some rights reserved.

Reuters reports this week that the Chinese government, and specifically the vice minister of environmental protection Wu Xiaqing, has called on “foreign embassies” in Beijing to stop publicly reporting air pollution figures. Based on the U.S. embassy-run Twitter feed @BeijingAir, which has been posting hourly updates on Beijing’s air pollution collected from the embassy’s rooftop since 2009, it seems easy to tell that the Chinese government is targeting the U.S. with these statements (and how bad does the data look, you ask? This morning’s tweets are tagged as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” while yesterday’s figures range from “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy”). While Mr. Wu did not call out the U.S. in particular, he stated that reporting these figures violates certain portions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The BeijingAir twitter monitors several parameters of air pollution data: pollutant type; concentration; AQI; definition. Specifically, the feed pays special attention to PM2.5, or fine particle pollution of less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, as this type of air pollution is thought to be the biggest threat to public health. The Twitter feed already played a role in strong-arming Hong Kong into making their PM2.5 pollution data publicly available earlier this year. If Hong Kong is able to reach its stated goal by 2014 as outlined here, they will still exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines by 300%. Shanghai will begin releasing their data publicly this month, but there is still no plan to do the same for Beijing.

One response to this post.

  1. […] Beijing (@BeijingAir) which tweets hourly reports on the air quality levels in Beijing. We noted in our report that the Chinese government was hoping to get the account shut down and, while it is still up and […]


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