Almost all the speakers at two public hearings in Xiamen this
week objected to plans to restart the construction of a
controversial chemical plant that was suspended earlier this year
following persistent public protests.
A senior government official of Xiamen also promised at the
conclusion of the hearing on Friday that Xiamen government will
properly deal with the environment assessment." "The phase of
public participation (in environment assessment of the project and
Xiamen's future development) has ended," Zhu Zilu,
secretary-general of the Xiamen municipal government, told the
participants at the hearing. "And I assure you that the municipal
government will undoubtedly follow the requirements of 'Scientific
Outlook on Development' and properly deal with the environment
The Scientific Outlook on Development has been a new doctrine of
the Chinese Communist Party that stresses sustainable economic
growth and harmony between man and the nature.
Of the 107 members of public selected by lottery to represent
the citizens of Xiamen at the hearings on Thursday and Friday, 91
opposed the project, 15 voiced their support, and one left without
About 80 local lawmakers and political advisors were also in
attendance and out of the 15 that addressed the forum, 14 spoke
against the municipal government's plan to build the paraxylene
Numerous members of the public hearing - who were only given a
number each to identify themselves while speaking - lashed out at
the project, arguing the plant would be detrimental to the
environment and people's health.
They said Xiamen would lose its longstanding reputation as one
of the most livable cities in China.
"If you were going to pick two apples to eat, knowing that one
of them was poisonous and the other was not, then, who would dare
make the choice?" said a male doctor, who could only be identified
as "Representative No. 31".
One woman - "No. 35" - said the existence of the plant would
prompt her to reassess her living situation.
"I came to Xiamen from Guangzhou with my husband a few years ago
just for its clean air and beautiful scenery. I think I'll have to
leave if the plant is built," she said.
Zeng Huaqun, a local lawmaker and also a law professor at Xiamen
University, said, "It's not whether the city should build it or
not, it's that the project must be stopped immediately. It's time
to make a decision now."
"Risks always exist in the development of chemical projects and
sometimes we cannot effectively guard against them," said "No.
Other citizens played down health concerns.
"I think the project will benefit Xiamen for generations. I come
into contact with the chemical paraxylene in a laboratory everyday,
and I haven't fallen ill - neither have my colleagues who have done
so for years. I believe residents will live harmoniously with the
chemical plant," said "No. 22".
"Xiamen cannot just rely on tourism for development or on
scenery for attracting talented people," said Lu Shaofeng, a female
local political advisor.
The representatives of the Xiamen residents were chosen on
Tuesday by lottery from a total of 624 people who had registered.
About 100 residents were picked as representatives and another 100
were selected as alternate representatives.
The two hearings were organized by the Xiamen municipal
government and lasted a total of eight hours.
The Xiamen municipal government began inviting citizens to
submit their opinions on the future of the chemical project on
December 5 via email, post or telephone to the municipal government
or the Beijing-based Chinese Research Academy of Environmental
Sciences, the organization in charge of an assessment of the
environmental impact of the project.
"So far, we have received more than 3,000 e-mails, 2,000
telephone calls and about 10 letters," said Shu Jianmin, deputy
head of the Beijing academy.
"We will classify the opinions and suggestions and provide
replies conscientiously," Shu said, refusing to disclose the
percentage of the correspondence that criticized the project.
No indication of when a final decision might be made was
Li Yanwu, director of the academy's center for environmental
assessment, previously said the environmental experts would include
some of the opinions and suggestions raised at the hearing in their
newly completed report on the environmental assessment of the
The Xiamen authorities put chemical project, earmarked for the
city's Haicang District 16 kilometers from the city center, on hold
on May 30 after coming under huge pressure from citizens virulently
opposed to the project who said it is polluting and potentially
On June 7, the Xiamen municipal government announced that the
construction of the chemical project would rest on an environmental
A month later, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental
Sciences was entrusted by the Xiamen municipal government to carry
out the assessment. Li and his colleagues completed the report late
According to an abbreviated version of the report posted on the
official website of the municipal government, experts concluded
that the southern area of Haicang District, the original location
of the planned PX plant, was too small and inadequate for the
diffusion of atmospheric pollution.
The local government had set two targets for the southern part
of Haicang: to develop the area into a sub-center of the city and
to create an industrial zone focused on the chemical industry.
However, according to the environmental assessment report, urban
planners were advised to choose one or the other, but not both.
If the city government's priority is the first target, then the
area is unsuitable for the development of the chemical industry,
the report said. If the latter, a number of residential buildings
should be demolished, citizens should be relocated and strict
controls over the chemical plants should be imposed, it
If the 10.8-billion-yuan (about 1.4 billion U.S. dollars)
project by Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd. goes ahead, it is
expected to produce 800,000 tons of paraxylene and generate
revenues of 80 billion yuan (10.77 billion U.S. dollars) a
(Xinhua News Agency December 15, 2007)