20,000 Protest Copper Plant in Sichuan Province

By Tang Ming, Epoch Times
July 4, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Chinese riot police.
Chinese riot police. Riot police using tear gas, stun grenades, and clubs, dispersed protesters in Shifang City. (Andrew Wong/Getty Images)

Close to 20,000 residents in Shifang City, Sichuan Province, took to the streets Monday to protest construction of a molybdenum-copper alloy refinery. The local government dispersed the crowd with riot police using tear gas, stun grenades, and clubs, yet agreed to halt construction.

A group of high-school students first gathered Sunday night for the protest. Others joined them the next day to march to the city government office. Ms. Huang, a Shifang City resident, told The Epoch Times there were close to 20,000 protesters at the demonstrations Monday. Residents were mainly concerned with the environmental pollution and ill health effects from prolonged exposure to molybdenum copper.

Before noon, several protesters stormed into the government office, smashing signposts and damaging nearby public facilities. Several hundred riot police then arrived on the scene to disperse the crowd, initially using teargas and clubs.

Huang said residents intended to hold a peaceful demonstration, but a small group of people began to act violently. Many others who weren’t involved in the confrontation were beaten severely by the police, she said.

The city government stated that at least 13 protesters had been injured Monday, but Hong Kong media reported that true numbers could be much higher.

Later in the afternoon, the city government announced on its Sina Weibo microblog that it plans to halt the construction project, which was to be carried out by the Sichuan Hongda Group. The protesters left by Monday evening.

Yet, police were still lined up on the streets Tuesday, according to Huang. Residents also saw 15 anti-riot vehicles and 8 military vehicles with armed police enter the city. Crowds gathered in the streets to protest and again clashed with the police. This time, police also threw stun grenades at the protesters.

On Monday, the Shifang City government published a statement on its website saying that the protests were provoked by supporters of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice persecuted by the Chinese regime, and the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.

The statement has since been removed from the city government’s website. An official from Chengdu, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Epoch Times that this statement was likely written under the instruction of the propaganda department in order to uphold the Chinese regime’s “maintain stability” policy, in an effort to divert the public’s attention from police violence during the protests.

Huang said that the residents are simply protesting the damage that the proposed plant will bring to both the environment and the health of local residents. “This was something the residents organized themselves to defend everybody’s livelihood,” she said.

Li Chengpeng, a well-known writer with over 5 million followers on his Sina Weibo microblog, wrote a post about the incident, urging the Shifang City government to stop exploiting the residents for the profit of a few people. The post had been viewed by over 95,000 people by Tuesday afternoon.

Since the protests, Shifang has also become the top search term on Sina Weibo.

With research by Annie Wu.

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