Clean Air Network

Clean Air Network
Formation July 2009
Type NGO
Location Hong Kong

Clean Air Network (CAN, simplified Chinese: 健康空气行动; traditional Chinese: 健康空氣行動) is an independent non-governmental organization which aims to educate the public about the health impacts of air pollution and mobilize public support for cleaner air in Hong Kong.

The organization focuses its work on the issue of roadside pollution and uses community organizing, lobbying and research to achieve its goals. CAN also works with other associations and organizations concerned about air pollution, such as the Senior Care Health & Safety Association in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Asthma Society.



CAN was established in July 2009 as a result of a Civic Exchange conference on Hong Kong’s air pollution situation earlier in the year and a recognized need that something had to be done. According to Civic Exchange’s environmental program director Mike Kilburn, CAN was created with the purpose of encouraging the public to speak out and support government measures that could improve the quality of air in Hong Kong. [1]


CAN works closely with District Councillors in Hong Kong, Legislative Council members and universities. The organization also provides research reports, fact sheets and other documents on issues related to its work, in order to raise awareness and provide information to policy and decision makers. [2]

CAN has also given numerous talks at educational institutions. In addition to speaking to and maintaining relationships with student groups at many of Hong Kong’s universities (Hong Kong University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology), CAN has also spoken at local and international schools, with most of these being secondary schools.

In July 2009, the Hong Kong Government announced its intention to revise Hong Kong’s air quality policy by tightening Hong Kong’s Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) for the first time in 20 years. [3] A public consultation on the Air Quality Objectives proposal was held from 23 July to 30 November 2009 and afterwards, the Hong Kong Government began the process of implementing 19 pollution clean-up measures. [4] CAN therefore views the period between 2010 to 2012 as a crucial window in which to encourage the Hong Kong public to urge the Government to pursue more aggressive clean air policies. In an interview in 2010, CAN’s CEO Joanne Ooi stated that the most immediate action CAN would like to see from the Government is “effective subsidies for the commercial diesel vehicle sector” and “ultra-low sulphur diesel usage for ships entering its waters.” [5]


In Sept 2009, CAN teamed up with a youth filmmaking non-governmental organization, Focus on Film, to raise public awareness about the issue of Hong Kong’s air quality. “Clean Air 1-2 Go” involved 200 students who made short films about Hong Kong’s air pollution that were eventually aired on monitors in Hong Kong’s major malls. [6] Clean Air 1-2-Go. Clean Air Network. Retrieved 3 December 2010.

In March 2010, CAN conducted a large-scale environmental messaging campaign, with public service announcements broadcasting messages about the adverse health impacts of air pollution on TV, outdoor billboards, indoor advertising, print media, SMS messages and more. This campaign was carried out with the support of CSL, The Link, and the MTR corporation.[7] Simultaneously, CAN launched a petition campaign in coordination with catering and fitness groups all over Hong Kong. More than 200 restaurants, cafes and gyms participated, inviting their customers to sign CAN’s “Petition for Clean Air” for a period of six weeks; all petitions collected were presented to the Government later that year. Businesses involved included Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Ben & Jerry's, and Pure Fitness. [8]

The petition urged the Government to improve Hong Kong's air quality by:

  • Adopting the WHO Air Quality Guidelines and setting an early date to comply.
  • Focusing clean-up measures on roadside emissions, the biggest local source of health impacts.
  • Improving accountability by reporting the health impacts of air pollution every year.[9]

Media coverage of the campaign stated that this anti-air pollution campaign was the first of its kind to be led by a large group of businesses. CAN underscored the importance of reaching all sectors of society and harnessing the support of the business community in order to urge the Government to address the air pollution problem. [10] In a New York Times article written in April 2010, Ooi commented “In my opinion, it’s an opening salvo for business to advocate visibly, even loudly, for more aggressive air cleanup measures” [11]

During the first quarter of 2010, CAN conducted a survey of over 500 parents at 10 pediatricians’ clinics throughout Hong Kong. The results, which showed that 90% of Hong Kong parents are concerned about air pollution’s impact on their children’s health, were announced at a press conference, presided over by the Chairman of the Hong Kong Asthma Society, Dr. Alfred Tam.[12] [13]

In June 2010, during the Legislative Council’s hearing of public statements for and against the anti-idling bill, CAN secured the appearance of two Hong Kong major medical associations, the Hong Kong Society of Pediatrics and the Hong Kong Asthma Society, represented by Dr. Aaron Yu Chak-man and Dr. Alfred Tam Yat-cheung, respectively. Both doctors defended the bill and fielded questions from groups against the anti-idling ordinance. [14] CAN also helped to bring about the unprecedented appearance of students Talia Stender and Cecilia Chan from Chinese International School and Canadian International School of Hong Kong, [15] respectively, who implored lawmakers to protect their health instead of subordinating society’s interests to narrow constituencies’ demands.[16] [17]

That same month, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology conducted a year-long roadside pollution monitoring survey that exposed many dangerous hot spots in Hong Kong’s 18 districts not monitored by the Environmental Protection Department. CAN assisted by showing that many vulnerable groups, such as hospitals and schools, are located near such dangerously polluted roads, prompting the question of whether the government’s new proposed low-emission zones would effectively protect the public. CAN and Civic Exchange then announced the preliminary results in a press conference. [18] [19]

Also in July 2010, CAN mobilized the Hong Kong medical profession to write an open letter to the Government, exhorting the Government to act on air pollution because it is Hong Kong's biggest avoidable public health problem. Signatories organizations, comprising the majority of Hong Kong doctors, included Hong Kong Doctors Union, Hong Kong Paediatric Society, Hong Kong Geriatric Society and Hong Kong Asthma Society.[20]

During the Summer of 2010, CAN introduced a suite of innovative environmental information tools comprising a Real-time Air Pollution Facebook Widget, Real-time Air Pollution Email Alerts (Beta), an iPhone app and Daily Lunchtime Roadside Pollution Tweets. These tools give the public immediate, updated readings about air pollution and, in some cases, push alerts, in a convenient, readable format, allowing them to stay on top of air pollution conditions in real time.

In August 2010, CAN released a public service announcement video starring popular movie star, Daniel Wu, Ana R., Simon Yin and Cara G, shot in the style of a 1980s-style infomercial. The fake advertisement about canned oxygen brand "Fresh Air" takes a humorous, absurdist approach and provokes viewers to imagine pollution so bad that one has to purchase healthy air from a can in order to perform even everyday functions. [21] [22]

In October 2010, CAN submitted their Petition for Clean Air along with the 25,000 signatures collected to the Environmental Protection Department. The organization drove a truck covered in black balloons throughout Hong Kong to highlight the threat the continually worsening roadside pollution poses to the health of Hong Kong citizens. [23]

In December 2010, CAN was invited by Civic Exchange to co-present the results of a new survey entitled "Less Talk More Action" which showed that the number of Hong Kong people considering leaving Hong Kong has increased considerably since two years ago, especially among those with a higher educational attainment. The results were widely reported in the local and international media. [24] [25]

Also in December 2010, CAN held a press conference with Liberal Party Legislative Councillor, Miriam Lau, who represents the transport constituency, in order to underscore its demands for subsidies for the oldest, most polluting commercial diesel vehicles. The press conference is the first time an environmental NGO and the transport sector have sought to unite forces in order to better public health. CAN has maintained this dialogue with commercial diesel vehicle owners in order to determine what solutions would be commercially acceptable and practicable to this class of polluters. [26]


  1. ^ Dan, Kadison (July 5, 2009). "New clean-air ally joins pollution fight". South China Morning Post. 
  2. ^ "Library". Clean Air Network. Retrieved Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Environmental Protection Department (23 July 2009). "Public consultation on Air Quality Objectives Review launched". Press Release. Retrieved 02 December 2010. 
  4. ^ (2009). "Air Quality Objectives Public Consultation". Environment Bureau Hong Kong SAR Government.(Report). Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Ooi, Joanne; Interview with Zoe Li. (03 March 2010). "Clean Air Network's Joanne Ooi: Why this is 'our most important year". CNNgo Hong Kong Live. CNNgo Hong Kong. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "藍天一二大行動! CLEAN AIR ONE TWO GO!". (in Chinese and English).Focus on Film. 2009. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Ooi, Joanne; Interview with Zoe Li (03 March 2010). "Clean Air Network's Joanne Ooi: Why this is 'our most important year'". CNNgo Hong Kong Live. CNNgo Hong Kong. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Hong Kong eateries and gyms launch clean air campaign". AsiaOne News. AFP (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.). 05 March 2010. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  9. ^ ""SIGN ON! Hong Kong Air Pollution Petition". The Way To Go. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  10. ^ Evans, Annemarie (15 March 2009). "Hong Kong group launches air pollution campaign". BBC News (Hong Kong: BBC). Retrieved 03 March 2009. 
  11. ^ Wassener, Bettina (01 April 2010). ""A Call for Hong Kong to Clean the Air". New York Times (Hong Kong). Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  12. ^ Hong, Kaylene (07 May 2010). "Kid health fears could - fuel pollution exodus". The Standard (Hong Kong: The Standard Newspapers Publishing Ltd.). Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Wan, Adrian (07 May 2010). "Air is harming our children, parents say". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.). 
  14. ^ Lam, Anita (08 June 2010). "Hot weather no risk to drivers, doctors say". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.). 
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  18. ^ Qiu, Maggie (23 June 2010). "HK speeding along toxic highway". The Standard (Hong Kong: The Standard Newspapers Publishing Ltd.). Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  19. ^ "The pollution traps we have to clear". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.). 24 June 2010.. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Wassener, Bettina (15 September 2010). "Fresh Air for Sale, in Hong Kong". Hong Kong: New York Times.. 
  22. ^ "Hong Kong: New York Times. Retrieved 03 December 2010.". HuffPost Green (Huffington Post). 03 September 2010. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
  23. ^ John, Duce (08 October 2010). "Hong Kong Air Kills More Than SARS, Pressuring Tsang". Bloomberg. Retrieved 03 December 2010. 
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