A deserted brick factory on the outskirts of Beijing

Beijing's attempts to curb pollution causing mass unemployment

Beijing’s rigorous attempts to clean up its skies by shutting industrial facilities that emit pollution are causing mass unemployment in the city.

China has been shutting down thousands of polluting small firms as part of a three year drive and an additional 2,500 are due to be closed this year.

Its efforts have been very successful so far; Greenpeace reported last year that Chinese cities in general saw an average 10 per cent drop in key pollutants, but the closure of businesses has also coincided with a 25 year low in the country’s economic growth.

Yet Beijing is still suffering from unparalleled levels of dangerous micro-pollutants in the air. In November, thick smog fell over the city, an orange alert was issued and factories were ordered to temporarily reduce their production capacities.

The city has promised to compensate firms that have been forcibly closed on pollution grounds. According to its state media, China has earmarked 17tr yuan (£1.8tr) for investment in overall environmental protection between 2016 and 2020.

Yet some factory owners and managers claim the money has so far not being adequately distributed to all the firms affected.

Han Fengge, manager of the coal-burning brick work company Ding Kai Yuan, which is located near a village on the outskirts of Beijing, said she has still not received any compensation after the factory was closed by the government in 2014, resulting in 170 redundancies.

She says she is owed nearly half a million dollars, but has not heard anything about when she might receive it.

"I'm 53 years old, I grew up in this village," she said. "Right now, I don't have the ability to re-start such a big investment from scratch, so all I can do is wait."

Asked why she might not have received compensation yet, an official at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology, who wasn't aware of Ding Kai Yuan's case, said: "There could have been a problem at a certain link in the process. It's possible the firm didn't meet requirements in a certain area."

The Chinese government is also looking at other measures to reduce the local pollution levels including closing or relocating coal-fired power plants, forcing old cars off roads and limiting outdoor construction.

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