BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foulest fortnight for air pollution in memory has rekindled a tongue-in-cheek campaign by a multimillionaire with a streak of showmanship who is selling canned fresh air.
“I want to tell mayors, county chiefs and heads of big companies: don’t just chase GDP growth, don’t chase the biggest profits at the expense of our children and grandchildren and at the cost of sacrificing our ecological environment”, Chen said. China’s air quality is closely watched as it fluctuates dramatically from day to day but in recent weeks has registered far into the unhealthy zone.
Air pollution is measured in terms of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are absorbed by the lungs and can cause heart and lung disease. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily PM2.5 level of 20 and says that levels greater than 300 are serious health hazards.
Beijing’s air quality frequently surges past a level of 500, and on January 12 soared to 755, the highest in memory.
“I go outside, walk for about 20 minutes, and my throat hurts and I feel dizzy”, Chen told Reuters in an interview on a busy Beijing sidewalk.
He handed out green and orange cans of “Fresh Air”, with a caricature of himself on them saying, “Chen Guangbiao is a good man”. “Be a good person, have a good heart, do good things,” reads a message along the bottom of each can.
The 44-year-old entrepreneur, whose wealth is estimated at $740 million according to last year’s Hurun Rich List of China’s super-wealthy, is an ebullient and tireless self-promoter.
He is something of a celebrity in China, with more than 4 million followers on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like microblogging platform.