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2012-01-11 | Peer Reviewed

Getting their voices heard: Three cases of public participation in environmental protection in China

Wanxin Li, Jieyan Liu, and Duoduo Li. 2012. Getting their voices heard: Three cases of organizing for environmental protection. Journal of Environmental Management (doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.12.019).
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By comparing three cases of environmental activism in China, our paper answers the following three questions about public participation in environment protection in China: (1) what are the drivers for public participation, (2) who are the agents leading the participation, and (3) do existing laws facilitate public participation?

We find heightened public awareness of environmental degradation and increasing anxieties over health and property values drive people to fight for more political space to influence decisions that have an impact on the environment. Despite the promises one finds in the letter of Chinese laws, Chinese society lacks a meaningful institutional framework to allow public participation, even in the area of environmental protection. The Chinese government mainly passively responds to public demands on an ad hoc basis, with no institutional commitment for engaging the public on environmental issues. This is unfortunate, because public policies without adequate public input are doomed to be clouded by illegitimacy.