AN ONLINE documentary on China's notorious smog has become a viral sensation with more than 155 million views just one day after it was released, the state media said yesterday.
Under The Dome, a documentary produced privately by Chai Jing, a former anchor with state broadcaster China Central Television, detailed the causes of atmospheric pollution in the country.
They included slack government supervision and lenient penalties for polluters.
The 103-minute film was first uploaded on domestic websites on Saturday and viewed more than 155 million times a day later, the Global Times said.
It included interviews with officials from London and Los Angeles, cities which were heavily polluted, on how they have sought to control the issue.
Ms Chai said the film was her "personal battle" against air pollution after her daughter was born with a benign tumour, the Global Times said.
China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use, and it has become a major source of popular discontent with the ruling Communist Party, leading the government to declare a "war on pollution" and vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels.
Retired senior officials have acknowledged that pollution may kill as many as half a million people a year.
The documentary set off a firestorm of criticism over the government's failure to act on the issue in a timely and effective manner.
"The government needs to be pushed for more action, and the people need to have their awareness raised about what they can do to fight against pollution," the China Daily said in an editorial.
Chen Jining, who was appointed minister of environment protection last week, said he watched the entire video and that it should "encourage efforts by individuals to improve air quality", according to the newspaper.
Internet users voiced strong support for Ms Chai.
"I shall avoid driving as much as possible and instead use public transport," said a netizen on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. "Every small move to protect the environment will converge into enormous energy and bring us back blue skies."
Another user said: "In-depth investigation of smog was...out of reach of the public, but now it is different. We have to...borrow the strength of the Internet to arouse the Chinese people's awareness of environmental protection and force the sleeping political system to awaken."
Levels of PM2.5 - airborne particulates small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs - fell year-on-year in most cities monitored by the government last year, statistics released by Greenpeace in January showed, but pollution remained far above national and international standards.
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