China bans ‘unofficial’ weather predictions

Beijing says only official predictions will be allowed ‘to prevent public panic in the face of a major weather event’

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Amateur forecasters in China will have to keep their opinions to themselves after Beijing announced that only officials from the country's weather centre are allowed to issue weather predictions.

Breaking the law means risking up to an $8,000 fine or even imprisonment. The ban came into effect on May 1, the BBC reported.   

Chinese state media says new measures are needed to prevent inaccurate information "causing panic during a major weather event." They gave the example of a false alert about a typhoon earlier this year that prompted people to cancel their travel plans as a justification for the ban.

However, the ban has been ridiculed online, as citizens criticised the government for further encroaching on a seemingly harmless hobby.

One internet user wrote: "The government can't give us accurate forecasts and now they've banned us from even guessing."

"Even our freedom to predict the weather is gone," said one commentator.

Another internet user asked: "What if your mother tells you to take an umbrella because she thinks it might rain - could she then be fined?"

The new regulations ban predictions on a wide variety of indicators from “wind speed, air temperature, humidity” to predicting disasters like “typhoons,” “sandstorms” and “haze”, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Banning independent reports on “haze,” often used to describe China’s choking air pollution, is of particular concern to ordinary citizens who do not trust government figures.

China’s cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use, and this has become a major source of discontent with the ruling Communist Party.

TRTWorld and agencies