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Campaigner warns of pollution disaster in China

 A child at an electronics waste disposal site in Guangdong province, China. Picture: Greenpeace, China

A child at an electronics waste disposal site in Guangdong province, China. Picture: Greenpeace, China

A green campaigner told a special New Year's Mass in Hong Kong  that  the disposal of computers, televisions and other electronics in neighbouring Guangdong province was putting lives at risk.

Burning electronic waste was "the most primitive and hazardous way" to dispose of the material in Guiyu town in Guangdong, said Gloria Chang Wan-ki, Greenpeace China's senior campaigner.

The poor, who earn around US$1 a day extracting materials from the electronics and burning the rest to recover various metals, were most at risk from cancer and skin diseases, she said.

The Catholic layperson, who spoke during the 1 January Peace Mass held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, said there was a "strong odor like burning ping-pong balls" when she visited the town, which she said was the world's largest disposal site for such waste.

In his message for the World Day of Peace Pope Benedict XVI  also warned of a looming ecological crisis in the world.

Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong in his homily called on all parishes and diocesan offices to save energy. He appealed to Church offices to do more in the new year "as a witness to our concern over the environment."

About 1,000 Catholic attended the Peace Mass, Bishop Tong's first since taking office in April. "Creating awareness, especially among young children, is vital for environmental protection," the bishop said.

Father Anthony Chang Sang-loy, has proposed a timetable for the diocese to introduce energy-saving measures. The priest ran a four-month prayer campaign before the United Nations' meeting on climate change in Copenhagen December 7-18.

He will start a new prayer campaign in mid-January ahead of the next climate meeting in Mexico in November, and a training program for "green Catholic leaders" in March.