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The environmental protection cause in China was feted on November 30, 2005 with the presentation of "Figures of Green China in 2005" award to five extraordinary people at the opening ceremony of the Environmental Cultural Festival.

This award is the first to be given by the Chinese government to environmentalists, and is supported by the United Nations Environmental Program.

The five winners were chosen from 20 nominees based on the appraisal of a panel of experts, online votes, and the results of a public survey. "This was a new selection process because it objectively reflects the public will and conforms to the public spirit of the award," said Jin Jianming, chairman of the selection committee of the award and also an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Nominee names were collected between August 22 and October 31 last year. A total of 439 nominees were recommended by the public, based on 35,823 Internet votes, letters and phone calls to the selection committee. According to relevant regulations, the committee shortlisted 89 candidates and then submitted the names to Horizon Research, a research company, to conduct professional investigations. Based on results of the investigation, the 89 names were further whittled down to 20 and the names released to the public on November 8.

"The award is for the common man; ordinary people who make great contributions to environmental protection," said Pan Yue, vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, one of the sponsors of the award.

"Environmental protection needs the participation of all citizens. Anyone, no matter who they are, can contribute to the cause," Pan added.

The five winners were: Tian Guirong, a farmer turned environmental protection leader; Liang Congjie, founder of Friends of Nature, China's first environmental non-governmental organization; Wang Canfa, a law professor who provides free legal advice to pollution victims; Liang Liming, who heads the Taiyuan Environmental Protection Agency; and Zhao Yongxin, a journalist who exposed the environmental problems at Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace.

(China.org.cn February 20, 2006)

The Soul of China's Environmental NGOs
Liang Congjie, 74, is the founder and president of China's first environmental NGO Friends of Nature. In November last year, he and four other environmental activists were given the Figures of Green China in 2005 award, the first awards for environmentalists sponsored by the central government and supported by the United Nations Environmental Program.
Working for Blue Skies in Taiyuan
Liang Liming, 52, who heads the Taiyuan Environmental Protection Agency and her team dragged their city out of the bad air quality doldrums when it was ranked bottom air quality rankings of 47 key cities across China. The number of Grade II air quality days in the city rose to 224 in 2004 from 120 in 2001.
Farmer Environmentalist
Tian Guirong, 55, a farmer from Henan, was presented with the "Figures of Green China in 2005" award for her hard work protecting the environment since 1998.
Of Law and the Environment
Law Professor Wang Canfa, 48, was presented with the Figures of Green China in 2005 award for his work in environmental protection through a medium that he knows best, the law.
Journalist and Environment Crusader
Zhao Yongxin, 36, a People's Daily staff reporter for the Education, Science and Culture Section, and winner of the sixth Earth Award, has written countless articles on environmental protection. More important, he was responsible for the exposé on the illegal construction project at Beijing's Yuanmingyuan Park (also known as the Old Summer Palace) in 2005.
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