Meet Coal Ash's Fake New Chinese Friends: "Big Steamed Bun" and "Handsome Dragon"

Flashback to Scandal Over Energy Industry’s 2009 Phony Letters to Congress:  Linguistic Analysis Shows Pro-Coal Group Submitted Bogus Petition to White House Opposing Coal Ash Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – How few friends does toxic coal ash pollution have?  It has so few supporters to call on that when a coal industry-backed group, “Citizens for Recycling First,” submitted a petition to the White House last fall opposing tightened regulation of coal ash dumpsites, the petition submitted by the front group included hundreds of fake Chinese signatures as part of the submission of 5,400 names, according to a linguistic analysis commissioned by the non-profit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

“Citizens for Recycling First” issued the petition on the Obama Administration website in late 2011 to “protect coal ash recycling by promptly enacting disposal regulations that do NOT designate coal ash a ‘hazardous waste.”  The group claimed that in just one month, its petition had gathered more than 5,400 signatures.  At the time, this was deemed to be enough support to require an official White House response.

A copy of the phony petition is accessible online at!/petition/protect-coal-ash-recycling-promptly-enacting-disposal-regulations-do-not-designate-coal-ash-/dG1sH81M.

According to the analysis prepared by Transperfect, fake Chinese names appearing on the petition fall into the following categories:

  • Generated by software/small group of individuals.  Based on the consistent wording and style of many of these names, they appear to be generated by a piece of software or a small group of individuals. While many of the first names might be real, they appear frequently with either the last name or one character altered. An illustration of a similar randomly combined list of Western names might look something like this:  George Jones, William Jones, James Jones, Henry Jones, Peter Jones, William Smith, Frank Smith, Jim Smith, Larry Smith, etc.
  • Use of non-names.  At least 80 of the names identified in Chinese characters in the petition refer to objects or descriptions that are not used as surnames in the Chinese language. These include: Popular food items: Steamed Bun, Older Sister, Steamed Bun Little Sister, Small Steamed Bun and Big Steamed Bun, etc.  Dozens of the names are simply names of animals in Mandarin, including:  Big Bear, Big Grey Wolf, Little Duck, Little White Rabbit and Yellow Tiger.
  • Invitations to travel.  Some of the names included in the petition are in fact invitations to visit China, such as: Come to China Big, Come to China Cat, Come to China China, Come to China Donkey, Come to China Little Girl, and so on.
  • Appearance-obsessed fake names.  Thirteen names appearing in the petition include the first name of “Handsome”, including Handsome Six, Handsome Eight, Handsome Good Looking, Handsome Dragon and the Most Handsome Guy.
  • Famous historical/literary figures.   Another 30 of the Chinese names in the petition actually identify famous characters in Chinese politics, history or literature. These include: Dasheng Sun: The monkey king in the Journey to the West (a famous Chinese novel) and Shanbo Liang, who is the protagonist in a very well-known legend.

For a copy of the EIP linguistic analysis, click here.

For the press release, click here.