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George Osborne has persuaded the Chinese government to buy a stake in the UK’s biggest water and sewage company, Thames Water, which serves about 14 million customers. The chancellor said he hoped this was just the beginning of Chinese investment in UK infrastructure.

Chinese companies already own growing stakes in UK gas and electricity companies and already control Northumberland Water.

Not long ago these companies belonged to the UK taxpayer. But now the government’s allowing them to be sold off to foreign investors like the Chinese government. Osborne has already said he hopes this is only the start of Chinese investment in UK companies, institutions and infrastructure.

How comfortable are you with that?

I’d hate to influence you in any way but just before you answer that question – have a quick look at these facts and figures about China:

  • China is the world’s largest authoritarian dictatorship.
  • About one third of the industrial waste water and more than 90 percent of household sewage in China is released into rivers and lakes without being treated.
  • Half of China’s population lacks safe drinking water.
  • China’s incredibly high rates of liver, stomach and esophageal cancer have been directly linked to contaminated drinking water.
  • In China, in 2008 six babies were killed and 300,000 were left sickened after consuming infant formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.
  • In summer of 2011, the China government reported 43 percent of state-monitored rivers are so polluted, they’re unsuitable for human contact.
  • Most of China’s rural areas have no system in place to treat waste water.
  • An estimated 980 million of China’s 1.3 billion people drink water every day that is partly polluted.
  • In October 2009, Greenpeace identified five industrial facilities in southern China’s Pearl River delta that were dumping poisonous metals and chemicals—such as beryllium, manganese, nonylphenol and tetrabromobisphenol— into water used by local residents for drinking.
  • In March 2010, more than 3.5 tons of “yard-long” green beans contaminated with banned pesticide isocarbophos, were destroyed after being discovered on sale in the central city of Wuhan.
  • In Shenzhen, southern China, nearly one third (28pc) of food made with rice flour were found to have levels of aluminium above national standards.
  • An undercover investigation in March 2010 estimated that one in 10 of all meals in China were cooked using recycled oil, scavenged from the sewerage drains beneath restaurants.
  • Research showed that 10 per cent of rice sold in China was contaminated with heavy metals, including cadmium, some contained up to five times the legal limit.

OK. There were some facts. Now what was the question again?

Oh yes. I remember now.

How comfortable are you with the government’s plan to increase Chinese state ownership of YOUR drinking water, sewage, gas and electricity supplies?

Answers on a postcard please. Preferably addressed to George Osborne at this address:

George Osborne MP
House of Commons

Or by email: tatton@tory.org


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