Chinese Internet users are calling for government action to shut the door to foreign toxic wastes, after television reports revealed how customs and environment authorities were failing to stop imports of hazardous garbage.
A netizen named Fruitful Autumn said the public was infuriated by the fact toxic wastes were allowed into their country.
Other online commentators said the authorities should effectively enforce the laws against imports of toxic wastes, insisting that China should not become a victim of imported hazardous materials.
A report by China Central Television (CCTV) came after Britain's Sky News aired a program titled "Are you poisoning China?", revealing how plastic wastes produced by British households ended up in Lianjiao, a small town near Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.
The footage showed Chinese workers amid mountainous piles of plastic shopping bags and choking on toxic smoke from burnt plastics. It also pictured nearby rivers blackened by chemical wastes from incineration.
"The bags should have been classified before being imported, but they were not. Some are non-degradable and contain hazardous substances," said Yang Sujuan, deputy director of the Research Institute on Environmental Law in China University of Political Science and Law.
Yang said importing hazardous wastes was a blatant violation of the national law on environment protection, and the local customs had apparently failed to curb the profitable trade in smuggled waste.
"A lot of waste is dumped and burned at open air sites, when it should have been delivered to qualified processing factories and supervised by local environment authorities," said Yang.
"The incineration will produce dioxins, highly-toxic and carcinogenic substances that will harm not only the workers, but also local people," said Mao Da, a member of Global Village of China, a Beijing-based non-government-organization as saying, in the CCTV program.
Mao said both importers and exporters had violated the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, to which China is a signatory.
He said local environment authorities should order immediate proper disposal of the imported waste.
The report sparked protests and calls for official action from many Internet users, who said they were infuriated by the fact that Maersk Lines shipped China-made Christmas presents to Europe, but toxic wastes back to China.
Developing nations have been destinations of potentially deadly materials from rich countries, which export waste to save the costs of recycling and landfills.
China alone has taken thousands of tons of transboundary hazardous wastes, including waste liquid from the Republic of Korea, used plastic bags from Germany and used batteries from the Netherlands, according to the report.
A lot of the waste usually ended up rotting in rubbish tips, releasing lead, cadmium, mercury and other deadly compounds, said Wu Aiping, an expert with the State Environmental Protection Administration in an earlier report
(Xinhua News Agency January 16, 2007)