Zhang Wenqi, a former employee of a biochemical technology company in China’s Henan province, has received a 17 month prison sentence and a 10,000 Yuan (1,112 GBP) fine for “disturbing market order” after reporting ongoing illegal industrial polluting related to his company. The Wuzhi County Court delivered Wenqi the sentence on account of him fabricating facts and causing financial losses, despite his claims having been verified by regional environmental authorities. The company in question is reportedly a major tax payer in the county.
Wenqi’s sentencing sends a clear message of discouragement to others considering blowing a whistle, and potentially even those considering volunteering for an environmental cause.
It also signals that the efficacy of China's environmental regulation is up against conflicts of interest and corruption. What protection can be made available for whistle-blowers?
If China is to meet its environmental objectives, can it afford to discourage citizen activism like this? Is controlling whistleblowers more important than maintaining government legitimacy? If so, how will China’s local and national government handle the growing tide of environmentalism throughout the country and across diverse industries?