China blows cold air at US grad stu­dent’s speech on dirty air, pol­i­tics

New Straits Times - - World -

BEI­JING: A young Chi­nese woman has drawn crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia af­ter un­favourably com­par­ing her home­land’s air and pol­i­tics with those in the United States dur­ing her grad­u­a­tion speech at an Amer­i­can univer­sity.

Speak­ing at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Yang Shup­ing said that com­ing to the US had been a breath of “fresh air” af­ter grow­ing up in China.

“The air was so sweet and fresh and ut­terly lux­u­ri­ous,” she said, in a video of the speech posted on YouTube.

“The mo­ment I in­haled and ex­haled out­side the air­port, I felt free,” she con­tin­ued, draw­ing a par­al­lel be­tween China’s no­to­ri­ous air pol­lu­tion and its sim­i­larly chok­ing re­stric­tions on politi­cal speech.

The re­ac­tion was swift and bru­tal, with com­ments in Chi­nese and English telling her to stay in Amer­ica.

Posts re­lated to the video on the Chi­nese mi­cro blog­ging site Weibo had re­ceived more than 56 mil­lion views by yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

“Peo­ple like this, with bi­ased opin­ions and bro­ken English, should never be al­lowed to speak pub­licly as a com­mence­ment speaker,” said one re­mark posted un­der the YouTube video. The site is banned in China.

Com­menters who said they hailed from Yang’s home­town Kun­ming ac­cused her of ly­ing about the air qual­ity in the ma­jor me­trop­o­lis in the city’s south­west, with many claim­ing it was as clean as Wash­ing­ton’s, near her univer­sity’s cam­pus.

“The only ex­pla­na­tion for her wear­ing a mask in Kun­ming is that she’s ugly,” said one com­menter on Weibo, re­fer­ring to her com­ment that she had worn one to pro­tect her­self from the bad air.

Yes­ter­day, air qual­ity read­ings in Kun­ming were as high as 107, four times the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­mended max­i­mum ex­po­sure for a 24hour pe­riod. In Wash­ing­ton, they were at two. AFP

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