Chinese man becomes first to sue government over the cost of fighting smog

Among other things, the man says he was forced to buy a treadmill to exercise indoors

Published February 25, 2014 2:26PM (EST)

A Chinese man has become the first to take the government to task for the country's suffocating air pollution, filing a lawsuit against his northern city's environmental protection bureau. Specifically, he's asking to be compensated 10,000 yuan ($1,635) for the cost of face masks, an air purifier and treadmill that he used to exercise indoors. Reuters reports:

Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, has submitted his complaint to a district court, asking the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to "perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law", the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said.

He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents for the choking pollution that has engulfed Shijiazhuang, and much of northern China, this winter.

"The reason that I'm proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we're the real victims," Li was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

It is unclear whether the court will accept Li's lawsuit.

At a conference in Beijing this weekend, the government's climate change adviser characterized China's pollution as "unbearable," saying: "It's like a smoker who needs to quit smoking at once otherwise he will risk getting lung cancer." According to Reuters, government policies to cut air pollution are being undermined by local authorities who, dependent on the taxes paid by polluting industries, are often loathe to enforce them.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping chose Tuesday morning to take an unexpected stroll -- face mask free -- through Beijing, where air pollution for the past week has been distressingly high. The New York Times posted this video of Xi chatting with local residents, commenting that the smoggy morning "was perhaps not the best day for a photo opportunity":

By Lindsay Abrams

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Air Pollution Beijing Coal Industry Public Health Smog Video Xi Jin Ping