China / Society

Smog suit by resident a long shot, experts say

By ZHENG JINRAN in Shijiazhuang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-27 03:15

Court will decide within 7 working days whether to accept the case

After living in a city with lingering smog for months, Li Guixin has sued the government for failing to control air pollution.

It was the first such case in China, but it may take a long time to see the outcome, experts said.

"I coughed a lot from the hazy weather since December, and I bought face masks, an air purifier and a treadmill for indoor exercise," said Li, a resident of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province’s capital.

The city’s air quality was rated "seriously polluted" for 320 days last year.

The thought of escaping from the city crossed his mind after months in the haze.

Li decided to sue the government after the city began conducting traffic controls during seriously polluted days, causing residents inconvenience and economic loss, according to a report in a local newspaper.

Li filed his complaint at Yuhua District People’s Court on Feb 20, asking Shijiazhuang’s Environmental Protection Bureau to take responsibility for reducing air pollution, compensate his economic loss of 10,000 yuan ($1,633) and pick up the bill for his legal costs.

The district court said it would decide within seven working days whether to accept the case, and it declined to comment or give any updates in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Wu Yuxin, Li’s lawyer, said there were reports and surveys showing that the smog is harmful to health and that with efficient measures and efforts from the government, air pollution can be controlled. He said laws should be used to push the government to do more.

The case won’t be easy. Li submitted his complaint to the provincial high court and the Shijiazhuang intermediate court before going to the district court, and they refused the case.

Li said he hopes that the district court will accept the case, but a legal expert cautioned that environmental cases always face a bumpy road.

"It is a long shot that his case will be accepted and investigated by the court," said Ma Yong, deputy director of the supervision and litigation department at the environmental legal service center of the All-China Environment Federation.

Under Civil Procedure Law, litigants in environmental issues must be governmental agencies or legal environmental protection organizations.

"Besides, he needs to submit clear proof that his loss in health and economy has direct relation to the smog, which is usually a tough job," Ma said.

Hot Topics