The day was 16 September 1995. As Beijing’s sky was being lit with the autumn morning sun, an inspiring event was unfolding place at Xidan Commercial area, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, then Administrator of NEPA and now Minister of SEPA, and Mr. Liu Yi, then the new Director of China’s Ozone Layer Protection unit, were standing at the huge entrance of the market along with other high government officers and UNEP’s representatives. They were distributing UNEP posters translated into Chinese to the consumers that had come there for holiday shopping. The message Mr. Xie and Mr. Yi were giving with the help of UNEP was simple: do not buy products containing Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) – they destroy the Earth’s ozone shield. To attract the shoppers’ attention, NEPA had arranged for a band of school children to be present to sing songs about environmental protection.
There were no international consultants, no scientific lectures, and no great speeches. The event took place on an open street and the audience consisted of the common people. While the sun over their heads emitted powerful UV rays, the Minister emitted a more powerful message about the need to protect our ozone layer. On the same day, NEPA replicated the message and distributed UNEP’s posters at a number of bustling shopping malls throughout Beijing and all around China. It was event that symbolised the beginning of ‘grass-roots’ capacity building in China for the protection of the ozone layer.