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  Yahoo News 12 Oct 07
Pollution 'matter of life or death': HK leader

Hong Kong's leader said Thursday tackling pollution in the territory was "a matter of life and death" and conceded that failing to do so would harm the city's competitiveness in the long term.

Speaking following his annual policy address Wednesday, Chief Executive Donald Tsang pledged to improve air quality by the time he leaves office in 2012 and said he expected the full backing of China's mainland authorities.

"We are clear in our objectives. Reduction of pollution in our power plants and in the air is a common goal," he told reporters when asked about co-operation with officials in southern China.

"It is also a national priority. It is a matter of life and death in Hong Kong."

Tsang's new measures to improve pollution -- which has blighted the city in recent years -- include reducing the amount of sulphur, a key pollutant, in diesel used in commercial and industrial processes.

He also pledged 93 million Hong Kong (12 million US) dollars to clean up emissions from factories in the nearby Pearl River Delta, which are often blamed as the source of the city's worsening air.

Some business groups say the poor air quality is harming the city's ability to attract senior managers and compromising Hong Kong's position as an international finance centre.

Tsang disputed this, saying the territory remained the leading recipient of direct foreign investment in the region, and that top professionals were still choosing it over rivals such as Singapore.

"But we are not complacent. In the long run (pollution) will harm our competitiveness," he said.

Tsang's policy address was criticised by environmentalists for simply tinkering with anti-pollution measures and failing to provide rigid targets to improve air quality.

The 63-year-old said the city's Air Quality Objectives, which date back to 1987, were currently being examined and would be updated next year.

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