China vows 'harsh punishment' for toxic smog culprits
BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's environment ministry has vowed to 'harshly punish' factories and power plants that contributed to a hazardous smog which enveloped much of Northern China, official state media reported on Wednesday.
Investigations had found that some thermal power plants, cement and steel makers in the northern province of Hebei had failed to halt or curtail production during severely smoggy days despite government orders, state news agency Xinhua quoted the Ministry of Environmental Protection as saying.
Northern China had in recent days been suffering its worst air pollution crisis in months, leading to public displays of dissatisfaction, including people placing anti-pollution face masks on statues.
In Beijing, which was shrouded in stinking smog for more than a week, authorities raised the pollution alert to the second-highest "orange" danger level for the first time on Friday after drawing public ire for its ineffective response.