China’s Green Champion Sidelined
Environmentalists fear his fall from prominence could signal a change of direction by the Chinese government and a weakening of the power of the environment protection authorities less than a year after they were upgraded to ministry status.
At an awards ceremony in December he explained his silence had been due to ill health, but environmentalists suspect a more political reason. “He doesn’t look sick to me. I don’t think health is the problem,” said Feng Yongfeng, an influential environmental journalist. “People are saying that it is because the government will launch lots of projects to save the economy. If Pan was in power, he’d probably interfere with these projects.”
Pan has lost authority over environmental impact assessment approvals, cut down media appearances and admitted that his pioneering “Green GDP” project has been shelved.