BEIJING - A Chinese official's remarks that cooking fumes must share the blame for Beijing's choking pollution drew ridicule from many microbloggers, who mocked the government for not addressing the root causes of smog that can blanket the city for days on end.
The government has announced a series of plans over the years to tackle pollution in its cities that has been blamed for a series of health crises, generating widespread public anger, but none has worked.
The head of Beijing's Foreign Affairs office, Zhao Huimin, stunned Internet users when he said "Chinese people's cooking actually makes no small contribution to PM2.5", referring to the tiny particulate matter that is most hazardous to health.
"I hope residents can do more to cooperate with government efforts to clean the air," Zhao said at a press conference, according to a video report from CCTV, China's state broadcaster.
Chinese microbloggers pounced on the comments, generating over 150,000 posts on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service.
One Beijing-based user demanded to know why the government "did not say that farting also makes no small contribution to PM2.5?"
One user in the southern city of Shenzhen suggested people just eat cold food.
Local media responded to the outrage by pointing out that cooking fumes were in fact responsible for up to 20 per cent of the particulate matter in Beijing's air, citing a report published by the Chinese Academy of Science.
Smog over northern cities in January generated a public outcry, as did the discovery in March of thousands of rotting pig carcasses in a river that supplies Shanghai's water.