China tells US to stop reporting Beijing’s bad air

BEIJING — China told foreign embassies Tuesday to stop publishing their own reports on air quality in the country, escalating its objections to a popular U.S. Embassy Twitter feed that tracks pollution in smoggy Beijing.

Only the Chinese government is authorized to monitor and publish air quality information and data from other sources may not be standardized or rigorous, Wu Xiaoqing, a vice environmental minister, told reporters.

China has long taken issue with the U.S. Embassy’s postings of hourly readings of Beijing’s air quality on a Twitter feed with more than 19,000 followers since 2008. But its past objections were raised quietly.

U.S. Embassy officials did not immediately comment Tuesday, but the Twitter feed was operating normally. Its readings are based on a single monitoring station within embassy grounds, and pollution levels are rated according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard that is more stringent than the one used by the Chinese government.

Beijing is frequently cloaked in yellow haze. Buildings a couple of blocks away are barely visible. Still, Beijing’s official air quality index records the pollution as “light” — a reading without a numerical comparison and at odds with what many people experience.

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