A large-scale riot erupted in Huashui town of Dongyang city in Zhejiang province on April 10. The riot occurred when the municipal government ordered military forces to clear away an over 2-week long road blockade and continued protests from a group of elderly villagers dissatisfied with the village’s industrial chemical plants polluting the environment. Public security officers indiscriminately used their cars to clear away the villagers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Outraged, the villagers surrounded the municipal government vehicles, threw rocks, and overturned dozens of police vehicles and utility cars. The villagers beat every official they saw. Hundreds of people were injured on both sides. Half of those injured were public security personnel.
It was reported that after the large-scale conflict, higher authorities ordered all media not to report the incident.
Once-beautiful Scenery Has Become a Poisonous Field
Huashui town is located in the center of Zhejiang province. Huaxi village is a natural village in Huashui town with a population of approximately ten thousand. Mountains surround the northern and eastern sides of the village while the western and southern sides are open fields. A mountain stream flows from south to north on the west side of the village. The villagers here have long enjoyed a pristine natural environment.
In recent years, however, more than the Zhuxi chemical industry has erected chemical-processing factories on more than 500 Chinese acres in the western part of the village. This suddenly changed the lives of local villagers. From 2001, at least ten major chemical factories have been constructed in the area; most of these factories are producing large volumes of toxic pollution. East Agriculture Industry Limited is one of these enterprises; this factory produces some of the most harmful agricultural chemicals.
According to residents, Huaxi villagers feel resentful and helpless. Their crops have withered, their stream has gone rancid, and because of leakage of poisonous industrial gases, birth defects have skyrocketed. The villagers have appealed for help everywhere, but until now, no government department has helped them solve their problems.
The chemical enterprises’ large profits and continual benefits to the local authorities basically drowned out the voices of the villagers. Their right to exist has been ignored. On October 16, 2004, China Chemical Industry newspaper published an interview report by Weng Goujian titled “Huaxi: What Caused You to Become a Disaster.” It revealed much information about environmental pollution in the Zhuxi chemical industry district. The news report, however, did not cause any reaction from the local government, which seemingly pretended not to see the issue.
“The Common People Have Become Angry!”
Starting March 23, a group of elderly villagers protested by setting up a bamboo awning to monitor and block a industrial service road for 24 hours. Around 3 am, the municipal government sent 3,000 people to “deal with” the elderly. A villager with the surname Jia indicated that the personnel on duty beat five or six elderly people with sticks, half of the victims had blood streaming down their bodies.
After hearing the news, locals from multiple villages in Huashui town rushed to Huaxi village to sit on the streets and continue the protest, not allowing the industrial vehicles to pass. Several hundred public security personnel were summoned to the site. They drove vehicles to force open a path, crushing many villagers. By then, tens of thousands of villagers had become enraged and surrounded the school where the municipal government was located, unceasingly throwing stones. They overturned 10 police vehicles and 50 buses. They smashed down the school fence and rushed inside to attack any officials they saw.
One official claimed, “Many public security personnel were hurt… tens of thousands of people surrounded the school.” A female industry worker from the village said, “The villagers are very angry, they have overturned a public security vehicle and smashed in the car windows. Almost the entire village turned up for the protest.” The villagers indicated that since there were not many public security personnel, the few who wanted to save their lives, did not hesitate to remove their uniforms and mix themselves into the crowd to escape notice.
Reuter quoted an insider who said, “Two women died during the suppression by authorities; they were killed on impact from public security vehicles.” A storeowner near the scene indicated that over 100 people were injured. A local doctor indicated that over 50 public security personnel were injured, five in a critical condition. A Dongyang Municipal hospital nurse indicated that two days ago they received 70 to 80 wounded people; the majority was officials and public security personnel. Yesterday, 30 people remained in the hospital for further treatment.