Residents stage new protest over chemical factory

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, April 2, 2014
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Protests against a proposed chemical plant in south China's Guangdong Province spread to the provincial capital of Guangzhou yesterday, even as authorities signalled they may back down on construction plans in attempt to head off more unrest.

On Sunday, hundreds of residents in the nearby city of Maoming, location of the proposed plant, poured into the streets protesting against the plant producing paraxylene, a petrochemical used in making fabric and plastic bottles.

Protesters in Guangzhou yesterday renewed calls for an end to the project. Hundreds demonstrated at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall early in the day, but no more than a few dozen were left by the afternoon.

There was no violence during the protest, witnesses said, though many police officers surrounded the demonstration.

In an online statement, the Maoming government said that a timeline had not been set for the project, which was still far from being approved. "We reiterate that this project is still under scientific study, and until the public has reached a full consensus it will not start," it said.

Sunday's protest started out peacefully in Maoming, with more than a thousand people staging a sit-in at city government offices in the morning while police stood guard. But by early evening, police reinforcements arrived in dozens of vehicles and tear gas was fired to disperse the demonstrators.

At around 10pm, about 20 people on motorcycles threw bricks, stones and bottles at riot police, destroyed traffic signs and set fire to roadside police booths, witnesses said.

The city government said in a statement on Monday that police acted "quickly and decisively" to take control of the situation. It said no one had died, but didn't say how many were injured.

The chemical plant project was approved in 2012 with an annual production capacity expected at 600,000 tons. The plant would be owned by the local government and Sinopec, China's biggest refiner.

The eastern city of Ningbo suspended a petrochemical project after days of demonstrations in November 2012, and protests forced the suspension of a paraxylene plant in the northeastern city of Dalian the year before. A similar demonstration took place in southwest China's Kunming City last year.

Choking smog in many Chinese cities, and environmental degradation, the cost of the country's breakneck economic growth, has earned the ire of an increasingly educated and affluent urban class.

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