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Death to Polluters: China’s New Threat

Beijing smogChina has given its courts the power to hand down the death penalty in pollution cases. Should US companies be worried?

On the one hand, China applies the death penalty with alacrity. Human rights groups say it executes more than all other countries combined – including for economic crimes such as corruption, Reuters reports.

On the other hand, officials haven’t said whether the new judicial interpretation, handed down yesterday, would apply to foreign companies. Surely that’s not a card China wants to play, as it seeks to prevent trade war with the west over solar panels. And there’s reason to suspect the death penalty threat is more bluster than bite: Chinese officials have been faced with growing protests against proposed chemical plants, and widespread dissatisfaction with the country’s high pollution levels. Politicians’ concerns may therefore lie more with defusing a public environmental movement before it starts, than with deadly prosecutions for China’s industrial powerhouses.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Photo: Kevin Dooley via flickr

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