Li vows to tackle pollution, food safety

March 18, 2013 at 1:15 AM
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BEIJING, March 18 (UPI) -- New Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for an "iron fist" resolve to tackle the two major problems plaguing the country -- pollution and food safety.

"We will upgrade China's economic development model to enable people to enjoy clean air, safe drinking water and food," Li told a news conference Sunday at the conclusion of the current Parliament session.

In recent weeks, China has been hit by dangerous levels of air pollution in Beijing and other major cities for days, a consequence of the country's rapid industrialization. Public anger about pollution has been mounting and the official media has responded strongly in support of the people.

Similarly, unsafe food items have become major national embarrassment for China even as authorities continue to severely crack down on violators. In the past, major food safety scandals that have threatened China's vibrant export market, have ranged from milk laced with melamine and pigs fed with performance-enhancing drugs, to watermelons juiced up with growth-stimulating chemicals.

On pollution, Li said he felt "upset" about the smog that recently shrouded Beijing and large parts of the eastern regions, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

"To tackle the problems, we need [an] iron fist, firm resolution and tough measures," said Li, the country's No. 2 leader. He took over as premier last week from Wen Jiabao.

Li promised that his government will set deadlines to overhaul pollution problems in key areas and take steps against water and soil pollution.

Water pollution has only exasperated the country's water shortages faced by some of its 1.3 billion population.

On food safety, Li said it is utmost importance as it concerns people's health and quality of life.

"The government should resolutely crack down on fake and substandard food products, and make those unscrupulous producers pay high prices," the premier said.

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