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SOE subsidiaries not free from pollution control responsibilities

China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-27 08:36

YUNNAN XIANFENG CHEMICAL INDUSTRY CO LTD, Southwest China's Yunnan province, was recently fined 100,000 yuan ($15,000) for failing to take effective measures to curb its pollution. This means the company, co-sponsored by two State-owned enterprises (Yunnan Coal Chemical Industry Group and China Three Gorges Corporation), has received such a punishment for three consecutive years. Beijing New commented on Friday:

It is appalling that the SOE subsidiary has been listed as a key provincial enterprise. Even more so, that it has shown little interest in curbing the pollution it generates.

On the one hand, the Yunnan environmental protection authorities have failed to rein in the "fearless" polluter, because the punishment has not been severe enough - 100,000 yuan is peanuts to such an enterprise, whose overall profits are made at the cost of the local environment and residents' well-being.

On the other, that the Yunnan enterprise did not bother to reduce its discharge of pollutants, ranging from industrial dust to waste water, as requested, has a lot to do with the overconfidence in its SOE background and its contribution to local economy.

In other words, local environment officials tend to impose pressure on private companies instead of SOEs or their subsidiaries, because the latter contribute a large portion of local revenue and are considered "too big to fail". They thus refrain from challenging these leading contributors to the local economy (nor have they the capability to challenge them), unless a majority of citizens solemnly and strongly urge them to.

Designed to provide better public services and improve social welfare, SOEs should play a major role in protecting the environment instead of ruining it. To hold such defiant acts accountable, environment departments at all levels must be given the authority to force SOEs to be environmentally responsible.

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