In the latest of a string of attempts to clamp down on air pollution, the Chinese government has banned outdoor barbecuing in Beijing, much to the chagrin of many citizens. China’s capital is notorious for poor air quality—the US Embassy’s air quality readings infamously went off the charts to “crazy bad” territory at one point—and recent headlines have said the choking air pollution even cuts life expectancy of the northern Chinese by 5.5 years.
Spend any time in northern China and you’ll soon associate nightfall with the sights and smells of the smoky, sizzling street food that pop up at dusk. These popular outdoor barbecues, known as shao kao, are a key part of the culture and a summer food staple for locals and tourists alike. It almost seems impossible to picture Beijing’s busy streets without the bustling shao kao stands.
According to the Global Times, about 13% of Beijing’s harmful particulate matter in the air comes from cooking emissions. Though the government instated a ban on barbecues in outdoor spaces in 2000, this time they are rolling out even tougher punishments for these informal street stands and have substantially raised the fines from 5,000 yuan (~$800) to 20,000 yuan (~$3,300).
The ban has sparked backlash from Beijingers who call the suggestions “empty talk” and question why the government doesn’t focus their efforts instead on the more notorious offenders, such as coal production and construction sites.
Lead photo © Bill Holler