In response to widespread outrage on Weibo over allegations that companies were pumping industrial waste deep underground to avoid pollution regulations, environmental protection officials in Weifang City, Shandong Province announced a whopping 100,000 yuan (approximately US$16,000) reward to the first citizen to produce verifiable evidence of the “unscrupulous” practice. Not long after the prize was made public, Deng Fei, director of department of reporting of the Hong Kong based Phoneix Weekly posted a weibo claiming that a moratorium on coverage of the pollution scandal had already been imposed by local newspaper Qilu Evening News. Deng also expressed concern that local authorities would lobby Beijing to prohibit reporting on the topic nationally.
@DengFei: #ALetterFromTheFrontLines# ‘Brother Fei, we of the Qilu Evening News have already been banned. Tomorrow, five field reporters will be withdrawn. I’m afraid the two reports written today will not make it into the paper.’ Brothers, keep up the fight! Commentary: Isn’t the Weifang Environmental Protection Bureau offering a 100,000 yuan reward, encouraging netizens to report underground pollution? Now, Shandong has moved to seal off local media. Will they next travel to Beijing to lobby for a national ban, withdraw all reporters from around the whole country, and seal off national media?
The allegations of government hypocrisy struck a chord with legions of Weibo users, who swooped into action, furiously reposting and commenting on Deng’s post:
@HuangbuYitou: Fight on, Weifang! They certainly have the ability to shut the mouths of all the reporters in the country.
@RecorderChenBaocheng: Expose every current Shandong propaganda official, sub-provincial-level and above!
@JunoChen-SZ: Investigating pollution isn’t what they’re good at. Sealing things off, on the other hand, is.
@PrettyAngel003: They’re willing to spend hush money, but they’re not willing to spend money on fixing the problem. Isn’t this their home,
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