Thursday 21 September 2017

Chinese headmaster 'suspended' after forcing hundreds of students to sit exams outdoors in smog

A cyclist rides along a street in heavy smog during a polluted day in Liaocheng, Shandong province, December 20, 2016.
A cyclist rides along a street in heavy smog during a polluted day in Liaocheng, Shandong province, December 20, 2016.
People walk past a street in heavy smog during a polluted day in Weifang, Shandong province, December 20, 2016. Picture taken December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
A man wearing a mask for protection against air pollution pushes his luggage at the Beijing Capital International Airport as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
An Air China passenger plane preparing to land at the Beijing Capital International Airport as the capital of China through heavy smog on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
People wearing masks walk toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
People wearing masks walk past Yintai Centre during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Office buildings are pictured in smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Office buildings are pictured in the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Buildings are seen around a tree during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Buildings are seen around a tree during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
People ride bicycles and electric bikes crossing a road in Beijing as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Vehicles drive past China's state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters and construction buildings at the Central Business District shrouded by heavy smog in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A woman uses a scarf to cover her for protection against air pollution walks on street in Beijing as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Samuel Osborne

A Chinese headmaster has reportedly been suspended in China after more than 400 students were forced to sit an exam outdoors in heavy smog.

Dense smog has smothered much of China for the last five days, and schools, factories and highways have been closed in attempts to improve air quality. 

The five day "red alert" warning, the highest level in China's four-tiered warning system, affects 460 million people, according to calculations from Greenpeace East Asia.

However, local media reports said that although the school in Linzhou, Hanan province, was closed due to the red alert, the headmaster did not want to cancel the planned exams.

Around 480 students from the Number One Middle School reportedly sat English, maths, Chinese and PE exams in the smog.

Images posted on social media showed rows of students working at exam tables on a sports field.

The headteacher has since been suspended, The Straits Times reports.

Meanwhile, residents of China's capital were wearing face masks and using air purifiers to try to avoid heavy pollution blanketing the city for a fifth day on Wednesday, but others were giving up the fight and joining a rush of "smog avoidance" travel.

Beijing led the country for searches on the travel website Qunar.com for "avoid smog", "wash your lungs" and other terms related to travelling to escape pollution, said Michelle Qi, a spokeswoman for the site's parent company, Ctrip.com.

Northern China has been shrouded in almost record pollution all week, disrupting flights, traffic and shipping, and closing factories and schools.

People walk past a street in heavy smog during a polluted day in Weifang, Shandong province, December 20, 2016. Picture taken December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
People walk past a street in heavy smog during a polluted day in Weifang, Shandong province, December 20, 2016. Picture taken December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Searches for plane tickets from Beijing to southern China, including coastal locations like Hainan province, quadrupled this week, Qi said. Popular foreign destinations include Thailand and Japan, she said

"Good air quality definitely would be one reason to go," she said.

Pollution alerts have become increasingly common in China's northern industrial heartland, especially during winter when energy demand - much of it met by coal - rises sharply.

Some Beijing residents, like Jane Wang, 27, and her family, can't get out of town fast enough.

Office buildings are pictured in smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Office buildings are pictured in smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing's central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

"My husband and I really wanted to go but our company didn't let us take off work so we had no choice but to wear a mask and go to work coughing," said Wang, who works in an automotive technology research centre.

Her mother flew to Hainan, where the family has a holiday house, on Monday to avoid the pollution, Wang said.

For those who can't go too far, travel websites including Ctrip advertise hotels with air filtration systems in places across north China, where numerous cities having issued pollution red alerts.

"Enjoy a micro forest, live in a fresh air room: enjoy your own a complementary air filtration machine," reads a banner advertisement on Ctrip's page for hotel bookings on Wednesday, with a link to a curated list of hotels with the feature.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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