(Corrects number of cities in paragraph 3 to 16, instead of 6 3)
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - China will punish officials in regions that miss air quality targets this winter, and will not accept excuses such as unfavourable weather or poor economic conditions, a senior environment ministry official said on Monday.
"There is no way for local officials to evade punishment by using weather conditions as an excuse," Liu Bingjiang, head of the atmospheric environment department at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), told a regular briefing.
Sixteen nothern cities saw pollution concentrations rise in the last three months of 2018, with the worst performers in the province of Henan, which has blamed "unfavourable weather conditions" for the rise. (Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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