By Sui-Lee Wee and Adam Jourdan | Reuters – Sat, Mar 9, 2013

Depositphotos_11288355_xs ProtestBEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – When China’s environment ministry told attorney Dong Zhengwei he couldn’t have access to two-year old data about soil pollution because it was a “state secret”, it added to mounting public outrage over the worseningenvironment.

Microbloggers, state media and even delegates to this week’s session of the National People’s Congress, the largely rubber-stamp parliament, were already critical of the government for poor air and water quality. Now they are also expressing disquiet over the scarcity of information about the environment available to them.

For incoming President Xi Jinping, who formally takes over towards the end of the parliament session, the two-pronged challenge is to find the balance between growth and further degradation of the environment, and also to decide whether to level with citizens just how bad the problem is.

“The significance of this event goes far beyond just environmental protection,” said Dong, in an interview with Reuters. “It concerns the problem China has had for many years – the issue of government transparency. (They) shouldn’t use ‘state secrets’ as a shield when they’re not in the right.”

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