Mass Protests Force Scrapping of Chemical Plant in Chinese City

October 28, 2012 7:45 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 11:59 am
For several days residents in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province, have been protesting against plans for a chemical factory producing p-Xylene in Zhenhai County, Ningbo. (Weibo.com)

Residents in a Chinese coastal province tried to block the expansion of a chemical factory with massive protests over multiple days recently, despite harsh police suppression and a media blackout. 

The protest had paid off by Sunday, when officials announced that they would cancel the project.

The plant, proposed to be built in Ningbo, a major port city in the eastern Zhejiang Province, is a subsidiary of the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, a major state-run oil company, and makes para-Xylene, a hazardous industrial solvent. The U.S. Center for Disease Control notes: “Do NOT let this chemical enter the environment.”  

The protests, during which riot police fired tear gas at thousands of residents, began Oct. 21 and continued into the evening of Oct. 28. 

The BBC reported that authorities agreed to halt the plant expansion, though citizens greeted the news with mistrust, according to The Associated Press. “There is very little public confidence in the government,” protester Liu Li told AP. “Who knows if they are saying this just to make us leave and then keep on doing the project,” she added.

A local resident named Liao told the Epoch Times, “We do not want chemical industries in Zhenhai. There are chemical companies all over Zhenhai already and now the authorities are allowing another toxic one in. There is no way we can survive like this. We also have to think about our children!” 

Eyewitnesses described a dangerous scene. A protester who was arrested on Oct. 24 told The Epoch Times, “The protesters in front of the district government demanded to talk to the authorities. Only one came to talk to us and we blocked traffic in the front of the government offices. Later they ordered the police to expel us. More than 200 policemen came. They arrested 14 people at 3 p.m. on Oct. 24, seven men and seven women. Many were hurt. Of those arrested, five were released on bail. We don’t know where the other nine are. The riot police were violent. When we resisted arrest, they punched us.” 

Armed police came out in force on the evening of Oct. 28, the day after the regime announced that the plant would be scrapped. (Weibo.com)

The protester continued, explaining the treatment received: “There are many bloody bruises on my neck. My lips were bleeding. The police punched my head and forced me to squat on the ground. They forced me into a police vehicle. I began to vomit because of my head injury and no one did anything. They did not allow me to talk or make phone calls. Later they held me in Luotuo Police Station,” the protester said. 

Protesters displayed banners on Oct. 25 saying, “We want to live. Protect our homes and kick out poison. P-Xylene leave Zhenhai. Give us a clean city!”

Ningbo democratic activist Dai Jianwei told NTD, a Chinese-language television station, that the crowd was peaceful on Oct. 27, and some middle-aged and elderly residents were telling the police about the dangers of P-Xylene, especially to children.

When UK journalist Angus Walker with ITV news arrived, the locals gathered around in support. (Weibo.com)

Mr. Hu, a shopkeeper near the center of the protests, told The Epoch Times that he saw tens of thousands of protesters in the streets. “Everyone is chanting, “PX get out of Ningpo, we want to live, we want to be healthy,” said Hu. He said the state media has not reported any of the unrest, and authorities have told people they will be fired for taking part in the protests. Mr. Hu was later arrested, according to The Epoch Times’ sources.

Protesters applauded and wept when they saw English reporter Angus Walker, a journalist with ITV news, at the scene, according to a post on Weibo which was later blocked. 

“I was just there. When foreign media appeared, applause lasted for a long time and a lot of people, including a military guy 30 feet away, had tears in their eyes,” according to a local resident writing on Weibo.

Another netizen, in Shanghai, wrote: “When Chinese people greet foreign journalists with tears and ask for help from ‘foreign army’ to save them, our media industry is dead and our government is the same.” 

Read the original Chinese article.

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