China steps up anti-pollution prosecutions

SHANGHAI • China prosecuted more than 3,500 people for pollution-related crimes in the first 10 months of the year, up nearly 40 per cent on a year ago, law enforcement authorities said, as Beijing looks to the courts and police to curb violations.

The country has struggled to enforce its environmental laws, as growth-obsessed local governments turn a blind eye to polluting local enterprises, and it has been trying to ensure violations are properly punished.

China's procuratorate said on Thursday that it would show "zero tolerance" to environmental crimes, adding that it also prosecuted nearly 8,500 people for the wider offence of "damaging resources" in the first 10 months.

The number of criminal prosecutions is still small compared with the nearly 130,000 environmental violations reported in the first nine months of the year, leading to fines of 10.63 billion yuan (S$2.1 billion), according to Environment Ministry data.

Beijing has encouraged courts and police departments to establish dedicated environmental divisions, while financial regulators and other government departments are under pressure to play a bigger role in punishing polluters.

In a speech earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to deploy the full weight of the state to reverse decades of environmental damage, forcing several ministries and regulators to draw up plans to fight pollution.

However, the central government still regards grassroots enforcement as a weak link and has launched a series of reviews into the way local officials rectify violations.


China is also making use of its graft-busting body to crack down on local government violations, documents published by the anti-corruption watchdog showed this week.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'China steps up anti-pollution prosecutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe