Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, spoke on a local radio morning chat show program, RTHK’s Backchat, and responded to a question on tourism and the environment “…Now why do people feel that they don’t see that the air is poorer? It is a question of visibility. Is the air right, not the road side air quality but what we see into the air that is a small particle, that is small particulates which is coming from the mainland that may not affect us or the things we breath but it affects our feeling that the air is not as good asbefore…”
Members of the Air Quality Objective Concern Group (AQOCG), a recently formed group of local researchers campaigning for Hong Kong’s AQOs to be set at levels that protect public health, expressed disappointment at the Chief Executive’s lack of understanding of the issue.
A recent research report "Air Pollution: Costs and Paths to a solution" issued by Civic Exchange; The Department of Community and Family Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Institute for the Environment, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and The Department of Community Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, confirmed that every year increasing levels of pollution, and deteriorating visibility, kills 1,600 people and costs the Hong Kong community HK$20 billion per annum.
Professor Anthony Hedley of the Department of Community Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, a member of the group emphasized “it is now quite apparent that the Chief Executive has not been properly briefed about the serious and large scale damage to the health of this community by average daily levels of air pollution. Mr Tsang needs to understand that this supposedly socially and economically advanced region has a totally primitive environmental regulatory system. It will predictably cause lasting harm to young people, and that is happening now on his watch.”
Christine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Exchange and member of the group, added “a large amount (70%+) of the particulates originate across the border, and yes, they affect the entire visibility of the region but to claim the loss of visibility ‘may not affect us or the are we breathe’ is untrue. Particulates are one of the most damaging pollutants to our health because the smaller particles can penetrate our blood and organs. The loss of visibility is an excellent indicator of worsening pollution. To also say that it is the loss of visibility that gives people the ‘feeling’ that the air is not as good as before implies the impact is more a ‘feeling’ than a reality when it is clearly a reality.”