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China Now Handing Down Death Penalty to Worst Polluters

Given our heavily business-friendly Congress, members of which believe that the best thing they can do for Americans is to cut taxes and reduce regulations; it should not be surprising to find a somewhat laissez-faire attitude toward polluters. Occasionally, people go to jail forenvironmental crimes, but that is relatively rare. More commonly, civil penalties and fines are involved.

That is not always the case in other parts of the world. In the EU, for example, environmental regulation is one of the most important and far-reaching aspects of their legislation. Penalties vary by country, but jail terms and substantial fines are common and often more severe than in the US.

But, by far the most severe is China. In what appears to be a clear case of “desperate measures for desperate times,” Chinese authorities have recently given courts the authority to hand down the death penalty for serious cases of pollution. This is apparently in response to public outrage over the despoliation of the environment.

The new reading of the law would enact harsher punishment, tightening what that official Xinhua announcement called, “lax and superficial enforcement” of laws that were already on the books. In the case of the most serious crimes, the death penalty could be given.

Public anger over China’s growth-at-all-costs policies has been growing steadily in response to the increasingly polluted air and water. A new survey, carried out by the Public Opinion Research Centre in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, measuring the public’s attitudes towards environmental protection found that up to 80 percent believe that environmental protection should be a higher priority than economic development.

There is good reason for this concern. A recent analysis by theHealth Effects Institute in Boston found that over a million people die prematurely in China every year as the result of air pollution.



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