“Protecting China’s Natural Habitat Feels Like a Game”

In a new short documentary, ‘Hopeful’, Jonah Kessel shows the work of environmental NGO Friends of Nature in using new laws to hold companies accountable for their pollution. The film focuses on a Yunnan “cancer village” and Friends of Nature activist Chang Cheng, who says: “Sometimes trying to protect China’s natural habitat feels like playing a game, because we have an opponent. Every time we advance, so do they. Sometimes it feels as though we cannot move at all. But there are still those of us who remain hopeful.”

Xing Long Village in Southern China’s Yunnan Province was once a peaceful farming community. But when a factory dumped 5,000 tons of chromium 6 into a nearby reservoir, cancer rates in the village skyrocketed. The environmental damage and human suffering caused by the illegal disposal of chemicals has been devastating and largely unnoticed.

However, an NGO in Beijing 3,000 miles away aims to put responsibility back on the factory. And a new amendment to Chinese law is giving them hope. The law states:

“In instances where the public interest is threatened, such as environmental pollution or violation of consumers’ rights, relevant organs or social organizations may file suit at the People’s Courts.”

Now, the NGO has teamed up with pro bono lawyers to represent the environment and the town in a public interest law suit. It will be the first time in Chinese history a Chinese court will here an NGO in a class action case.

See also an interview about the film at chinadialogue.