Acid rain and dirty air bedevil China and Hong Kong

One-third of China’s landmass was hit with acid rain last year, according to a government report, posing a grave threat to soil health and food safety. Fast-growing China is the world leader in acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide emissions, which rose 27 percent in the country from 2000 to 2005; coal-burning factories and power plants are largely to blame. Beijing, which has promised clean skies by the time the city hosts the 2008 Olympics, has its work cut out for it. Meanwhile, in business hub Hong Kong, where visibility was reduced to about half a mile on more than 50 days last year, a recent poll of business leaders found concern that worsening air pollution will reduce the city’s appeal to foreign investors. Eighty percent of the 140 top executives polled by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said they knew professionals who had considered leaving or had already left the city because of the foul air.