Environmental officials in China‘s northern city of Xi’an have been detained for altering air quality monitoring results in order to avoid penalties for high pollution in their area.
Lu Guang / Greenpeace
According to media reports, five officials—including He Limin, the chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau for the city—were arrested for their involvement in the deception.
The investigation revealed the deceptive acts began when the monitoring station in question was being relocated to the Xi’an University of Posts and Telecommunications back in February, according Global Times newspaper.
A China Business View report said the head of the station, Li Sen, made a copy of the key so employees could have access to the station during that time to stuff the sensors with cotton gauze. The alteration to the system’s data as a result triggered an alert to the National Environmental Monitoring Center who sent out inspectors to examine the station. During their investigation, they discovered the surveillance videos for March had been deleted, according to the report.
China has been cracking down on pollution by enacting an environmental protection law last year giving officials the authority to punish businesses whose pollution levels are too high and anyone who participates in deceptive practices. Researchers estimate about 1.6 million people die each year in China due to pollution. In June 2015, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection reported seven cases of falsification of air quality data, according to Greenpeace East Asia.