China tells US to stop tweets on Beijing's bad air

China told foreign embassies Tuesday to stop publishing their own reports on air quality in the country, escalating its objections to a popular U.S. Embassy Twitter feed that tracks pollution in smoggy Beijing.

China has long taken issue with the U.S. Embassy's postings of hourly readings of Beijing's air quality on a Twitter feed with more than 19,000 followers since 2008. But its past objections were raised quietly. U.S. consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou also post readings of the cities' air quality on Twitter.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. had no plans to stop providing the service. The air quality readings in Beijing are based on a single monitoring station within embassy grounds, and pollution levels are rated according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard that is more stringent than the one used by the Chinese government.

The Beijing government only began reporting PM2.5 earlier this year after long-standing public and international criticism of its lack of transparency about its air quality. The government appears frustrated that there are now dueling readings for air quality and that the U.S. readings underscore the fact that pollution levels considered unhealthy in the U.S. are classified as good by China.
Wu also said that air quality monitoring by foreign diplomats was inconsistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and urged diplomats to abide by China's laws and regulations.

It is unclear if other nations monitor and publicize their readings of air quality in Chinese cities, but local Chinese have used the U.S. readings to prod their government into publishing more detailed pollution data.