Beijing residents who are putting up with extra security checks and traffic restrictions this week for the annual meeting of the country’s lawmakers are doing so without the usual compensation of glorious blue skies.
The Chinese capital was choking on smog Tuesday morning, even as the city’s environment bureau said an orange air pollution warning issued over the weekend was due to be lifted as the situation improved.
An orange alert, the second-highest on the city’s four-tier system, advises elderly people and children to remain indoors. During an orange alert, outdoor construction work is halted, and limited traffic restrictions are introduced in order to cut down on the amount of pollutants being added to the poisonous air.
Beijing is currently hosting the annual meeting of lawmakers known as the “Two Sessions.” Sunday was the first day of the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a body that nominally advises on laws and policy and whose members include numerous retired officials and celebrities. The National People’s Congress, China’s rubber stamp parliament, begins its annual session on Tuesday.
While the situation is forecast to improve during the day, as of Tuesday morning, the air quality index was still over 270, according to the World Air Quality Index, an independent body which collates various pollution monitoring data.
That puts it in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “very unhealthy” category. The EPA warns such levels of air pollutions can effect the entire population, and warns people to avoid outdoor exertion.
In the past, major political events in Beijing have been greeted with blue skies, as the Chinese authorities shut down factories in neighboring provinces and limit traffic to ensure clean air.
A study in 2016 said the practice came at a severe cost, however, as production is ramped up to compensate for economic losses incurred during the shut down.
“‘Political blue sky’ comes with the price of retaliatory pollution after political events,” the study’s authors said.
In 2015, after a major military parade in Beijing enjoyed clear blue skies, it took less than 24 hours for the city to be enveloped once again in a choking gray smog.
This week’s pollution will be particularly embarrassing for Beijing’s government, as it has actually seen a marked progress in recent years in terms of tackling smog, with numerous measures taken to cut down on pollutants. However, much of the current situation is caused by weather conditions blowing smog from neighboring cities and regions into the capital due to the unique geography of Beijing.