Beijing’s red alert for pollution won’t stop life from going on

On Tuesday, China’s capital felt the effects of the new restrictions around its air pollution red alert.

The red alert — the most serious warning on a four-tier system — is the first time the country has sounded the alarm for air pollution at this level of severity, but it seems plenty of people continued to go about their routines.

Cities like Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei in Northern China have been particularly badly hit, in part due to their proximity to the many coal-burning factories in the region.

Under the red alert, Beijing’s private cars will only be allowed on the streets on alternating days, with the aim of halving the traffic on the streets. Schools, factories and construction sites are ordered shut, while businesses are instructed to have flexible working hours so some employees can stay home instead of travelling to the office.

But while lots of people on Weibo said they were making plans to stay in to avoid the smog for the next few days, many ignored the official warnings to spend less time outside.

In this photo posted by China National Radio on its Weibo, it shows a policeman removing a sticker on a car’s licence plate used to obscure whether it is an even or odd number.

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IMAGE: CNR WEIBO

Reuters reports that hundreds of people, including toddlers, stood in Tiananmen Square in Beijing to watch the flag-raising ceremony on Tuesday morning.

And despite the traffic restrictions, this photo from a Beijinger shows a traffic pile up on the streets on Tuesday:

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IMAGE: WEIBO

Local news [link in Chinese] reported a group of taxi drivers under the Didi Kuaidi company had parked their cars outside the Beijing police headquarters on Tuesday in protest of the traffic restrictions, saying their livelihoods were affected.

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Didi Kuaidi taxis parked outside Beijing police headquarters

IMAGE: SINA WEIBO

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IMAGE: SINA WEIBO

Elsewhere in the city, some vendors, including street hawkers continued to go about their business.

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A hawker sells pancakes to a Chinese pedestrian along a street on December 8, 2015.

IMAGE: GOH CHAI HIN/AFP

Beijing issues first red alert for heavy air pollution

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk on road in heavy smog in Beijing, China, 8 December 2015.

IMAGE: GETTY

China Smog

IMAGE: ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Tuesday, the phrase “the smog is back again” (雾霾又双叒叕来了) was trending on Weibo. The phrase includes a play on the word “again,” and expresses people’s frustration with the perennial air pollution in the region, literally translating to “the smog is back again, again, again, again.”

A user, G Nanke, blamed the pollution on people being complacent about the environment and businesses and the government not doing enough to arrest the problem earlier on.

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A user in Hebei, a city 150 km southwest of Beijing, said she felt like she was inhaling poison, and said she wanted to see a patch of blue skies again.

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IMAGE: WEIBO

Others posted photos of the city on the day.

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IMAGE: WEIBO

This poster said this was the view across from his apartment, and added jokingly, “I’m calling the police!”

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IMAGE: WEIBO

A school’s stadium, taken just days apart:

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IMAGE: WEIBO/MASHABLE COMPOSITE

Just prior to raising the red alert, Chinese environment minister Chen Jining said on Sundaythat municipal environmental protection agencies in Northern cities which failed to put in emergency response plans quickly enough would be “strictly punished.”

For now, the red alert is set to end at noon on Thursday.