22 August 2019
Beijing has taken strong measures to improve the air quality ahead of the APEC summit, but not all of the city's residents are happy. Photo: Bloomberg
Beijing has taken strong measures to improve the air quality ahead of the APEC summit, but not all of the city's residents are happy. Photo: Bloomberg

‘APEC Blue’ comes at a price for Beijing residents

After suffering a smoggy September, Beijing’s 21 million residents finally got a chance to breathe some fresh air this month, thanks to stiff measures imposed by authorities to ensure blue skies during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

While the “APEC Blue” has been welcomed by the public at large, the strong government steps have also drawn criticism from some people who had to put up with a few inconveniences. 

People in areas close to the summit venue were, for instance, prohibited from using firewood for cooking their food. Some residents found that their milkmen had suspended services due to traffic restrictions.

In other grievances, even a crematorium announced that mourners will not be allowed to incinerate funeral clothes during the first two weeks of November, local media reported.

“We can cook with natural gas… but we don’t have sufficient heat,” Zhang Yongfu, a person living near the summit venue was quoted as saying in a report Wednesday. “Children and elders may be affected [by the cold weather]“

In normal times, several people in China’s capital city use firewood for cooking and to fuel Kang bed-stoves for heating.

Despite the complaint, Zhang said he and his neighbors were willing to put up with the temporary curbs given the big event that will take place in Beijing.

The APEC summit will kick off on Friday.

But not all of the capital city’s residents were willing to sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of the summit. Social websites have been flooded with comments criticizing the bans and restrictions that have disturbed people’s daily lives.

People were being asked to forego many things, while “too much care is lavished on foreign leaders”, one netizen said.

According to state media reports, the APEC catering staff is required to deliver dishes to all banquet tables in less than six minutes after preparation to prevent the food from cooling down. The waiters are said to have been rehearsing repeatedly to be able to meet those strict standards.

Some netizens also questioned why authorities were planning to put up a grand fireworks show, which will certainly emit large amount of pollutants, during the APEC summit when the general public was being told to ensure clean air.

“Praise from foreign friends on APEC is extremely important for China,” columnist Liu Yuanju concluded in a Tuesday article in a mainland publication. Meanwhile, people are showing greater awareness about protecting their rights, he noted.

That said, the attitude of the government is unlikely to change anytime soon.

If anyone thinks that criticism from the Chinese will weigh more on Beijing leaders’ minds than praise from foreigners, we can only say: dream on!

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EJ Insight reporter

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