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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 14:49 GMT
Pollution worries China's press
Sebastian Usher
BBC World media correspondent

Chinese Press
Criticism has begun to seep into the Chinese media of the authorities' response to the water crisis in the north-eastern city of Harbin.

The failure by the local government in Harbin to make clear the full extent of the problem promptly and clearly has been attacked - as has its lack of preparation for such a crisis.

Photos of people in Harbin stockpiling water in supermarkets after the city's central water supply was cut off are now appearing in Chinese newspapers and on websites.

Editorials and commentaries are also taking a close look at the crisis, with some taking issue with the authorities' explanations.

A commentary in Yangcheng Wangbao says that "the people of Harbin don't seem to be willing to believe the government's reasons for stopping the water supply".

And if they question the authorities' word on the cause, it is likely to bring - the paper says - "enormous hidden dangers in the subsequent handling of the case".

Preparation lacking

A paper in Shanghai, Dongfang Zaobao, is concerned that the authorities are not telling the whole story about how polluted the water might already have been before it switched the supply off.

The paper asks: "If the headwaters of the local river have indeed been polluted, will it indirectly contaminate vegetables and poultry and livestock bred by local farmers, endangering food safety?"

The China Daily says the crisis begs the question: "What can we do to prepare ourselves better for such emergencies?"

It says that "lack of preparation and foresight has become a frequent occurrence" amongst officials.

In Hong Kong, the Singtao Daily says that the unsatisfactory response by the local government shows that progress towards more openness in China still has a long way to go.

Recently, China's greater speed in providing news about the bird flu outbreaks there has been noted and welcomed - not least by the World Health Organization.

But the Singtao Daily says the Harbin water crisis shows that "in this process of opening up, officials still have a lot of room for improvement, with transparency in particular still lacking, which in this case caused unnecessary panic among local people".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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