[Review] Greenpeace East Asia: the BIG Stories of 2011

It was an amazing year, and with you behind us and with our smart IDEAL working framework – (I)nvestigate, (D)ocument, (E)xpose, (A)ct and (L)obby – we made some pretty impressive achievements, building on our wins from previous years. Let’s take a look back at our biggest successes from our campaigns in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and mainland China:

No More Nukes for Hong Kong

Our Hong Kong team toiled tirelessly during the months after Japan’s terrible Fukushima nuclear accident and the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy to rally the Hong Kong public behind our message: that it is dangerous to expand Hong Kong’s nuclear power uptake. Public worries about nuclear power forced the Hong Kong government to rethink its original plan to drastically increase nuclear power by 2020.

Choking on Coal Dust

In April we published a shocking report on a little-known poisonous waste from coal power stations called coal dust. "Coal Dust Storms: Toxic Wind" showed how toxic coal dust containing heavy metals from power stations in China’s northeast were carried on sandstorms to Beijing and Shanghai and even as far afield as Hong Kong. It wasn’t long afterwards that the Chinese government agreed to improve its monitoring of ambient air quality by adding PM2.5, one of the most serious air pollutants.

Chromium Crime and Our Rapid Response

When we heard that a chemical company had illegally dumped waste chromium near a village in southwestern Yunnan province we sent a rapid response team down to investigate the problem and help local people stay safe. When we tested the local water, it went off the scale and villagers had been drinking it unawares! Shortly afterwards, and thanks partly to our involvement, the local government was forced to start a cleanup campaign in the area while, on a national level, the Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a crackdown on chromium waste sites with clear timelines.

The little GE rice campaign that could!

At the beginning of the year we published a survey that found that about 70% of consumers in Hong Kong and the mainland rejected GE food. In April, we tested baby food and dried rice noodles on the mainland and here in Hong Kong and found, worryingly, that it contained GE ingredients. And then, in September, the news came that we had all been waiting for: China’s Ministry of Agriculture said it was shelving all plans to consider GE rice for commercialization for the next 5 to 10 years. It is Greenpeace’s most substantial win to date and reflects seven hard years of lobbying, strategic thinking and plain perseverance.

Safer Food in our Supermarkets

By the end of 2011, we had lobbied 220 plus food brands, a dozen rice companies and 12 supermarkets to promise not to use GE ingredients in their own branded products. After we started suing them, supermarket chain Lianhua, said that it would phase out use of the five toxic pesticides on its products.

Gibbons going, going, gone

Using satellite data and careful field work research Greenpeace documented how over the past 10 years one quarter of the forests on China’s Hainan Island have been illegally chopped down to make way for industrial plantations. That’s the same as 27 football fields every day for the past 10 years. Our report and media work put the issue in the spotlight and set the stage for better protection of the gibbons’ home.

Taiwan in the Net over Excessive Fishing

Taiwan has a greedy fishing fleet, and it’s been made even greedier because the government uses taxpayers’ money to subsidize the industry. Fishing fleets have been hit by depleting fish stocks, caused by their own over-fishing practices. This all feeds the ever-worsening over-fishing crisis. Our report, "Net Loss: How Taiwan Subsidizes Tuna Depletion" last August put the issue squarely in the public domain, forcing the government to second-think this policy and meet with Greenpeace campaigners for open discussions.

Rainbow Warrior Asia Tour

At the beginning of last year, our most iconic ship, Greenpeace’s second Rainbow Warrior, sailed her final voyage before retiring. She ploughed the seas to Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, giving all of our supporters a chance to scramble on board. In her final voyage she helped us with our climate change and anti- nuclear campaigns.