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Forest Official's Tree-planting Idea Withers Under Criticism

A suggestion that Chinese citizens who can't help with tree-planting drives instead pay 20 yuan (about US$2.8) per year has been criticized by Chinese netizens.

Cao Qingyao, the spokesman of the State Forestry Administration(SFA), posted an article on his blog on Tree-planting Day, in which he said that planting trees was a citizen's obligation and those who couldn't take time away from work should instead pay to help 'green' the country. That didn't go down well with those who read his suggestion.

"People have paid taxes and it should be the government that pays for tree planting," an anonymous netizen commented on Monday.

The few netizens who backed the idea doubted whether the money would be spent on trees or would find its way into somebody's pockets through embezzlement and misappropriation.

"The charge is improper," said Guo Weiqing, a professor at Sun Yat-Sen University. It was also unclear whether it would be compulsory or voluntary, Guo said.

According to Cao, the annual 20-yuan payment would cover planting of three to five trees. He estimated that about 100 million Chinese workers wouldn't be able to participate in tree-planting. So, if each contributed 20 yuan, there would be 2 billion yuan or "enough to plant 10 million mu (about 666,667 hectares) of trees," Cao wrote.

He also suggested the establishment of a fund and special team to manage the money and do the planting. Cao stated that the idea was his personal opinion, not the SFA's.

Under China's forest law, tree planting and similar activities are among the obligations of citizenship.

Statistics from the SFA showed that 2.27 billion trees were planted last year, with 58 percent of the population taking part, lifting the urban forestry coverage ratio to 35.11 percent.

(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2008)

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