Rebranding air pollution: Introducing the Bruce Lee AQI

Desiring to delude myself into feeling better about Hong Kong’s air quality (currently at the red/high/unhealthy level), I started browsing air qualities in other cities. Viewing the air quality in say, Amsterdam or Seattle, was a total kill-joy. Viewing the average air quality in Shanghai or Beijing, however, encouraged me to take a long, deep breath of Hong Kong’s fresh grey air.

While Shanghai’s air quality is often worse than Hong Kong’s, Shanghai has done a knock-out job of humanizing its air quality index. The official Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center has mascot-ized its AQI with a little girl who either smiles in spring green or sobs in somber maroon, depending on current pollution levels:

Hong Kong’s index, by comparison, features a lobotomized, bald-head icon:


Source:Β HK AQHI

I ask Hong Kong:

As “Asia’s World City” what’s stopping us from besting our Shanghai rival by adopting a super cool pictorial AQI to track the damaging effects of the air we breathe?

I hereby propose that Hong Kong adopt the “Bruce Lee Air Quality Index:”

Bruce Lee AQI for Hong Kong _



Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center (source of the crying girl AQI)
Hong Kong’s Official Air Quality Index
Official health guide that corresponds to Hong Kong’s new index (source of the colored heads)

38 responses to “Rebranding air pollution: Introducing the Bruce Lee AQI

    • Reading your post about Chengdu’s air has encouraged me to go for a nice, long run even though we’re at “Air is bad” on the Bruce Lee AQI.

      My god, the readings for Chengdu are horrible! I love the idea of a “Panda Index” but fear the little guy would be perpetually on the verge of death. Maybe a little face mask on the panda for AQIs over 150 would make it work.

  1. HAlarious. What has HK done to promote pollution control, BTW? Are there restrictions on the number of motor vehicle licenses given out each year, annual car smog checks? And what about people burning incense and paper money/garbage/their marriage certificates?

    • From what I can tell Hong Kong has fallen back on the usual non-solution of blaming Mainland China for everything.

      Cars do have yearly smog checks and the taxis use a cleaner burning fuel. There is some talk of cleaning up the buses. Obviously not quite enough us being done.

    • There are restrictions on which cars are on the road each day of the week, or so I’ve been told by some Chinese friends. Something to do with certain license plate numbers or something, I’ll check on that again. I will say though that Beijing putting up LEDs for the sunrise is a little ridiculous. Check this out:

      • That big sun LED screen it too much!

        I have also heard that Beijing limits which days certain cars can drive. In Hong Kong there is nothing like that, but I also think there are a lot fewer private cars in Hong Kong than Beijing. Buses, trucks, cargo ships and air traffic are all big local polluters here (plus whatever blows down from Guangdong Province).

  2. curious, looking out the very fresh HK air, do you ever miss seeing Mt. Rainier (or Mt. St. Helens) from the top of the needle of where you are from?

    I guess 7-10 million more visitors will make the HK air better :p

    • Yes, i do miss Seattle’s fresh air and the view of Mt Rainer! Fortunately I have the chance to visit every summer.

      For the time being, fingers crossed the wind in Hong Kong picks up and blows out some of this pollution.

      • Or Seriously stock up on masks, oxygen, air purifers, chest decongestants and asthma inhalers since HK is unlikely to take polluting ships/cars out, taking high sulfur fuels, razing country parks for more estates…

  3. I can’t think of a single thing that should be stopping that.

    Gosh, makes the kerfuffle we had over the Sumatran forest fires in 2013 look pretty pale (by which I mean “colourless” I guess). People were literally fleeing the country and the government was doing the modern equivalent of pasting up Keep Calm And Carry On posters, and at the same time trying to sound appropriately alarmist and disapproving of the Indonesian fire-lighters.

    • Thought I’d let you know my husband sent this to the Hong Kong team. He had to make it into a (properly credited) file, upload the file at work and then circulate it as an attachment using his work account in order to bypass the corporate internet nanny who disproves of fun, but he thought it was important to do so. He hopes they feel he’s sympathetically cheering them through their suffering, and not unsympathetically sniggering at them from a safe distance through their suffering.

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  5. Is that girl crying in the Shanghai index or is the acid rain slowly melting her eyeballs?

    Another beautiful, blue sky day in HK today though. Hiking time before the pall descends once more.

    • Ha! Good point about her face possibly melting. Right now I am enjoying blue, but very cold (for me) winter weather in Istanbul. Fingers crossed for more, cool-ish, but clear days of days of hiking this spring in HK!

  6. As someone who lives in Beijing and occasionally travels to HK for the fresh air and lower risk of death by traffic, I found this exceeding funny. And sent it to all my Beijing friends. We recommend the adoption of the Bruce Lee AQI immediately.

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