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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: January 12, 2007 NO.3 JAN.18, 2007
Green Heroes
Civil-society environmental groups are pushing China toward a greener future
It was a red carpet event, but little vanity was on display. Although the glamorous award ceremony on December 9 attracted a handful of China’s big-name pop singers, film stars and TV talk show hosts, none was the protagonist of the gala night. Taking center stage were the eight winners of a three-month national campaign to find the “Green Chinese of the Year,” individuals who made significant contributions to China’s environmental protection in 2006.

This was the second year of the campaign, in which members of the public are invited to name and vote for “green” heroes, which is co-sponsored by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and six other government departments. Despite the contest’s semi-official background, the winners were chosen from among the general public, selected through a combination of Internet voting, public surveys and the recommendations of judges from the public. During the final round of the competition, as many as 629,195 Internet users voted online to choose eight winners from a list of 24 finalists.

Ke Lan, who had been a magazine model and widely popular anchorwoman of Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, was the only entertainment celebrity to win the honor. At the Shanghai Film Festival in 2005, she made a daring exposure of the damage done to the mountains during the shooting of a film in which she starred. Her whistle-blowing at a press conference immediately attracted public attention and triggered condemnation of the environmentally damaging acts.

The movie’s producer sued Ke for libel, but she prevailed in the case last July. At the award ceremony, Ke, dressed in a plain outfit and wearing light makeup, said, “I just said and did what I should have, and I am not good enough for such an honor. Please don’t trade our children’s azure days for a job opportunity.”

Du Shaozhong, Deputy Director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Administration, was honored for initiating the “drive one less day a month” campaign to alleviate the air pollution in Beijing. Several mornings a month, Du, who is in his 50s, makes the 70-minute walk to his office in a bid to encourage more people to join the program. Since the launch of the program in May, the number of private car owners in Beijing who are participating in the program has exceeded 100,000.

Three award-winners are founding directors of grassroots environmental protection nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Yang Xin is the founding president of the Sichuan-based environmental group Green River, an organization that has been working for the protection of the wildlife and ecosystems of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for more than a decade. The 44-year-old was cited for “advocating the protection of the Yangtze River’s headwaters and the endangered Tibetan antelope for the last 20 years and offering suggestions to the planners and construction crew of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway-the highest railroad in the world-to minimize damage to the fragile ecosystem, such as building suspended wildlife corridors for the Tibetan antelope.”

Liao Xiaoyi is the president of the 10-year-old NGO Global Village of Beijing. Through producing TV documentaries, publishing articles and delivering public speeches on environmental protection, Liao, 53, has been advocating a “green lifestyle” concept consisting of saving water, sorting garbage into separate classifications, using public transportation, refusing to eat wild animals and using recyclable commodities.

Ma Jun, who founded the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, received the award for his innovative efforts to develop a Google Earth-like software to highlight all polluted waters on the Chinese map.

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