In recent months, protests over the severe illnesses caused by China’s heavy industries have resulted in a crackdown on polluters. Leading the charge has been the state-run media, which the central government is now using to gain control over corrupt local authorities and powerful commercial enterprises.
Last August, residents of Chongqing town in the central Chinese province of Shaanxi surrounded the town’s huge lead works, run by China’s largest lead smelting company. It was a brave act in a totalitarian country. But the people of Chongqing were angry because the town’s doctors had found that of the 731 children they checked, 615 were suffering from lead poisoning caused by pollution from the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Company.