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Public pressure forces shifting of Xiamen plant
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The government of Xiamen in Fujian Province may relocate a halted US$1.41-billion chemical plant as almost all speakers at two public hearings vented their ire at the idea to restart the project in the coastal city.

The paraxylene plant may be relocated to the Gulei Peninsula in Zhangzhou, Fujian. Zhangzhou has a population of more than 4.5 million, The Beijing News reported on Wednesday.

The decision was said to have been reached one day after the Xiamen government held two public hearings to seek opinions on the project that was suspended earlier this year following persistent public protests.

Of the 107 people selected by lottery to represent the residents of Xiamen at the hearings last Thursday and Friday, 91 opposed the project, 15 voiced their support and one left without speaking.

About 80 lawmakers and political advisers also attended - 15 addressed the forum and 14 of them spoke against the government's plan to build the plant.

But a senior Fujian official cast doubt on the possible relocation, only saying that the project was still being discussed, the report said.

Construction of the plant in Xiamen's Haicang District was halted in June following a public outcry over pollution and health issues.

The southern part of Haicang has been set up into a chemical zone, but the city plans to expand the zone into a residential area, which spurred locals to spread short messages calling for a boycott of the project as paraxylene is a dangerous material.

Paraxylene is a petrochemical used to make purified terephthalic acid, a raw material for producing polyester film, packaging resin and fabrics.

But it is also carcinogenic if exposed to humans. Health experts say it can cause fetus abnormalities.

(Shanghai Daily December 20, 2007)

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