Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hong Kong shrouded in smog

This was what Hong Kong looked like at 8:20AM on Saturday 8th December, 2007. The sun was high in the sky, and there were no clouds. Yet from Tsim Shau Tsui, I could barely see the outlines of buildings in Wanchai and Causeway Bay, and North Point basically disappeared.

The highest roadside Air Pollutant Index was 151 on Friday, the highest of the year. The government, as usual, blamed it on light winds and regional air pollution, a euphemism for Southern China. According to some academics, however, the index readings would have been much higher should Hong Kong adopt the World Health Organization air-quality guidelines, rather than the existing guidelines which are 20 years old. For example, the WHO guidelines are 3 times tougher in certain aspects. The government defended the current Hong Kong guidelines as similar to other places in Asia such as Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Indonesia.

Hong Kong claims to be a world city, and regularly compares itself to first world countries and cities in things such as standard of living and economics. In other aspects such as democracy and environmental protection, however, it prefers to compare itself against second and third world places.

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