People describe 76-year-old environmentalist Qu Geping variously as enthusiastic, a bold critic, and someone who gives rewarding advice.
In the nation's environment circles, there are very few people who don't know this senior citizen. His peers respect his lifelong commitment to China's "greener" future and some worship him as the nation's "environment spiritual leader."
"I am very willing to devote my knowledge and experience to China's environment cause," said Qu, who was formerly minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, chairman of the Environment and Resources Committee of the National People's Congress and is currently a senior global environment consultant for the United Nations.
Qu's workload now far exceeds that of a government official.
On October 13, for example, Qu arrived in Kunshan in the morning to attend a ceremony launching the fourth "Green East" China Environment Award. Afterwards he traveled straight to Shandong University to give a lecture.
"I can find Mr Qu in almost every top environment protection activity in China and there is no weekend for him," said Wang Yajing, a senior reporter of China Environment News.
Many government officials and non-governmental organization staff members have noticed Qu has lost weight and are worried about his health.
Qu is also popular among reporters. Despite his age and limited time, he always gives reporters opportunities to conduct interviews, aiming to reveal the "hidden" truth and enhance public awareness.
"I am delighted to do my bit," he said. "The nation's environmental improvement needs the media's strong support."
"Sometimes people say my criticism is too bold, but I know I should stick to the truth," Qu said.
He was the first to reveal to the media that the nation's environmental protection targets had not been achieved over several five-year plan periods.
"Sometimes in the past the government was afraid to let the public know the truth, but only public accountability can fundamentally address the nation's environmental abuses."
He told Environment China that the present barrier to China's environmental protection is weak legal enforcement.
"Compared with Japan, the two countries' environmental protection standards are equal, but China's legal enforcement situation is far from Japan's."
Qu often gives advice to the government to enhance legal enforcement of environmental protection, reiterating that frequent pollution can always be attributed to the "feeble" legal rights of environmental protection bureaus at different levels, "no matter central or local ones."
He said that the central government's recent policy revision which states that if a pollution accident happens it is the responsibility of the local government is good progress.
Qu set up the China Environment Protection Foundation when he retired, the only certified organization engaged in public investment and fund operation for the purpose of environmental protection.
The foundation has raised funds for poverty-stricken areas to improve the environment and people's living standards because, as Qu said, poverty is a driving force behind environmental deterioration.
(China Daily October 23, 2006)