BEIJING, March 17 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
pledged on Sunday that his government would "show even greater
resolve" in tackling China's festering pollution crisis, a
source of increasing public fury.
Li's remarks at his debut press conference as premier were
the highest-level public comments on the problem to date, though
he gave few specifics about how the government planned to
address the environmental effects of rapid economic growth.
Street-level anger over the air pollution that blanketed
many northern cities this winter has spilled over into online
appeals for Beijing to clean water supplies as well.
The rotting corpses of more than 12,000 pigs found this
month in a river that supplies tap water to Shanghai drew even
more attention to water safety.
Li said he encouraged increased public participation in
cleaning China's water, soil and air.
"This government will show even greater resolve and take
more vigorous efforts to clean up such pollution," Li said,
referring to the winter smog.
Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above "very
unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels since the beginning of this
year. On Sunday, it hit 286 on an index maintained by the U.S.
Embassy in Beijing, which described the pollution as "very
Nationally, environmental complaints have sparked unrest and
even riots, to the alarm of the stability-obsessed ruling
Beijing will set deadlines to tackle pollution caused by
man-made factors, Li said, adding that the government will phase
out "backward production facilities".
"We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no
mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist," Li said.
"We shouldn't pursue economic growth at the expense of the
environment. Such growth won't satisfy the people," he added.
Li also promised a crackdown on fake and substandard food,
another persistent problem which has caused widespread alarm,
with scandals in recent years including toxic milk powder, and
painted stones sold as rice.
The government will "take strong measures to punish the
heartless producers of substandard and fake food so they will
pay a high price", Li said.
(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by