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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 16:01 GMT
Loans cut for Chinese polluters
Coal power station belching out smoke in Beijing
The authorities are taking a tougher line on illegal polluters
In the first move of its kind, a dozen Chinese businesses have had loans blocked or withdrawn after being accused of flouting environmental laws.

The firms, which have not been named, include a brewer and a power plant.

With China's historically lax record on the environment under growing scrutiny, the authorities threatened to get tough with persistent polluters this summer.

Firms guilty of environmental breaches are currently subject to a maximum fine of just 100,000 yuan ($13,500; 6,601).

'Paying the price'

With China's cities among the most polluted in the world, the authorities plan to increase financial penalties for rule breakers and force firms to pay more towards the cost of emissions.

Under China's new "green credit policy", environmental regulators are required to pass on details of corporate offenders to the Central Bank.

Of the 30 companies which were identified earlier this year, 12 have now been sanctioned.

According to the China Youth Daily newspaper, one brewery in the east of the country was refused a $1.3m loan for continual breaches of rules regarding wastewater discharge.

"The purpose of this move is to force enterprises to pay the price for environmental violations," the paper quoted an official from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) as saying.

Environmental protection has taken a back seat in recent years as Beijing has made rapid economic growth its key priority.

But earlier this year, SEPA suspended approval of construction projects in eight provinces and autonomous regions due to environmental concerns.

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