Environmental Pollution Sparks Protest, Then Crackdown, in Zhejiang

By Chen Yilian, Epoch Times
September 7, 2010 9:08 pm Last Updated: September 7, 2010 9:10 pm

Beginning in late July, villagers-cum-environmental activists have been protesting against chemical companies in eastern China, whose pollution has badly damaged their living conditions. Local authorities in Zhejiang Province deployed armed police in response on Sept. 1.

Thousands of villagers from Xuanzhu Village and Qi Village in Sanmen County of Zhejiang Province gathered in front of two chemical companies that pollute the local environment. Many chemical plants are located close to Qi village.

On Aug. 10, approximately 1,000 protestors faced more than 200-armed police officers. Villagers barricaded the entrance to one chemical plant with heavy machinery and blocked the door of a pharmaceutical company with a mound of earth.

Local police arrested four villagers around midnight on Aug. 23. Several thousand villagers promptly gathered in front of a government building and requested the release of the arrested. A couple of thousand armed police officers and special police forces arrived to disperse the villagers.

A Qi Village resident surnamed Yu told The Epoch Times that nearby farmland is flooded with toxic runoff: “The farmlands look white; waters look milky-white and are extremely smelly. The southwest night wind covers all nearby areas with a strong odor and prevents people from sleeping. The villagers are all in bad health. Many have cancer—lung cancer.”

Local party officials relegate the concerns of the populace to last place until there is a major incident. Villagers say the officials are in the pocket of the chemical companies.

“These chemical companies pay a lot of taxes, and local governments rely on them for revenue,” Yu said. “Our county's industry had not been so well developed as it is now; but these chemical companies are here to stay.”

Many of the chemical companies are located in Sanmen county. According to villagers, several former county leaders saw the development of chemical industries as an impetus to improve the local economy.

Within a few years of the project’s launch, local residents suffered disastrous consequences: fish from local ponds were inedible, farmers' skin showed diseases from the effects of toxic irrigation water; farmland became unworkable; trees turned yellow, withered and died; agriculture in general sustained severe damage; the mortality rate from serious illnesses shot up.

Xuanzhu Village, located a short distance from a local chemical company, has recently been designated a “cancer village”; this year, more than 10 villagers have died of cancer; more than 30 villagers have just been diagnosed with cancer.

A villager surnamed Li declared, “We no longer take water from local wells. The ground water is polluted, making it undrinkable. Lung cancer plagues most villagers. A formerly healthy 50-year-old man just died from it yesterday.”

Residents say that officials have largely ignored their concerns.

Read the original Chinese article