Anomalies in air quality observation data were found in March 2018 during MEE's inspection of Linfen. The public security department of Shanxi launched an investigation in April and detained 16 suspects for intentionally interfering with the environmental observation system, news site thepaper.cn reported on Monday.
The incident started after city authorities were questioned in January 2017 when the atmospheric environment continuously deteriorated, according to the report.
After that, Zhang Wenqing, then deputy director general of the environmental protection department of Linfen, told Zhang Ye, an official of the department, and Zhang Yongpeng, an employee at an observation station, to alter the monitoring system and forge favorable data.
From April 2017 to March 2018, the suspects interfered at six observation stations in the city nearly 100 times, resulting in a serious distortion of the monitoring data up to 53 times, thepaper.cn reported.
The People's Court at Yuci district, Jinzhong city, Shanxi Province on May 30, 2018, sentenced Zhang Wenqing to two years in prison for destroying information on a computer. Zhang Ye and Zhang Yongpeng were both sentenced one year in prison. The rest of the suspects face imprisonment of four to eight months.
According to thepaper.cn, Linfen ranked last on a list of air quality of 169 cities across the country in the first six months of this year.