A Lonely War on Forest Destruction – Fu Xueli
In early July, Hainan’s People’s Congress conducted a blanket examination of its forest resources. The island also invited media outlets from Beijing and other provinces to “expose the shame (Êè≠‰∏ë),” that the province has lost more than 1 million mu of natural forests since 2000. This, inviting the media from all over, was a first.
But it was not a first for Liu Futang (ÂàòÁ¶èÂ†Ç), an official with the Provincial Forestry Bureau in charge of fire prevention and a provincial CPPCC vice chairman on population, resources and environment committee. He has fought with all his heart against many around him in the forest rush that has swept through the province in the late economic boom centered around the paper industry.
Ten years ago, a 10-billion-yuan project made its debut on the island and with its magnetic force has largely steered the economic development direction of the province. Liu, at the outset, knew that this was an “ecological bomb.” But he didn’t have a channel to express his dissenting opinion.
But with a little bit of power, namely the authorities, he cracked down on setting fire to forests in order to plant eucalyptus and other paper-driven species. One of the heavyweight paper companies sent in someone to work their way around him to secure a plot of land in natural forests for their paper development. Liu resisted, for more than an hour. Still the company had its way in many other localities, and Liu in many cases was enraged while witnessing mountains of trees burnt down.
He also went around the counties to check on the fire prevention work and in quite a number of occasions “forced” county governors to fire forestry bureau chiefs for their neglectful work. Sometimes, he had the blessing of the provincial leadership, such as former Hainan secretary Wang Qishan (ÁéãÂ≤êÂ±±), now Beijing’s mayor.
But Liu also earned a lot of criticism, and some say he is a “broom star (Êâ´ÊääÊòü),” or someone that brings bad luck, in his case killing the political future of many local officials. He was also disliked by some for his playing his double card, exposing his own organization’s (the forestry bureau’s) negative side in his role as a CPPCC representative.
The good news for him is, he is no longer fighting alone. The provincial government made a significant turn in its policy, shifting from giving the paper industry the top priority to protecting natural forests from human destruction. [Full Text in Chinese]