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Talk of the Day -- Chinese students ashamed by cross-border pollution

2012/07/07 21:04:13

Rubbish from China that washes up on the beaches of Taiwan-held outlying islands such as Kinmen and Matsu has long created headaches for cleanup workers.

One Matsu beach, covered with plastic bottles and food packaging from popular Chinese brands,. shocked and embarrassed a group of exchange Chinese college students who took part in a recent beach cleanup activity there.

One of them wrote in a Weibo (China's version of Twitter) post that she felt ashamed of her compatriots' littering behavior that has caused such cross-border environmental pollution.

The following is an excerpt from a report in the Saturday edition of the China Times on the issue of beach pollution on Taiwan's major outlying islands:

Just over 100 students from Minjiang University in China's southeastern coastal province of Fujian have studied at Taiwan's Chinese Culture University under a student exchange program over the past year.

They recently concluded the study program and before departing for home, participated in a beach cleanup project in Matsu's Chuluo coastal region, in an event arranged by the Tourism Bureau.

Many of the Chinese students were surprised to see the large amounts garbage drifting along the shoreline and strewn on the beach.

The waste included plastic packaging of consumer goods ubiquitous in their daily lives, including plastic packs of Master Kong instant noodles and famous Fuzhou fish balls, as well as plastic bottles of brand-name soft drinks from China.

Lee Chien-hsun, an official of the Matsu National Scenic Area Administration, recalled that many of the Chinese students expressed sorrow about the beach pollution caused by litter from China, which is less than a kilometer away from some of the islets of the Matsu group.

Some of the students would sing the TV commercial theme songs of products familiar to them when they would spot the packaging of such items, Lee said.

Meanwhile, one of them, identified as Bi Baibai, wrote on her Weibo account right after completing the cleanup mission that she would be unable to imagine the extent of the litter if she had not seen it with her own eyes.

"Although the cleanup program has ended, the shocking feeling I felt remains fresh in my mind. With a feeling of shame, I picked up trash that had floated across the narrow Taiwan Strait to Matsu from my home province," Bi wrote.

"Watching all this familiar rubbish, I could not but think that Matsu people have been forced to find out about many of the popular consumer brands on the mainland ... I really feel apologetic for this littering by the folks in my homeland," she added.

Bi's posting immediately drew an enthusiastic response. Some Weibo users said they felt the cleanup activity was very meaningful and inspiring, while others said they hope China will devote more energy to garbage disposal and more strictly implement garbage classification.

A Chinese Culture University professor said he hopes the program will help promote ecological education, environmental protection eco-tourism and ecology-friendly lifestyles.

Matsu officials, meanwhile, said litter from China has been becoming a more and more serious problem along with China's rapid economic development.

The quantity of waste has been increasing steadily and has caused serious damage to Matsu's coastal scenery, the officials said, adding that the amount removed manually exceeds 1,000 tons per year.

Similar problems have also troubled the Penghu Islands, local tourism officials said, adding that the archipelago's northern coastlines are most seriously polluted and that even its uninhabited islets such as Yuanbeiyu and Jishanyu have also been affected by rubbish from China. (July 7, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)