Large-scale protests continue in Guangdong Province, just 60 miles north of Hong Kong, drawing a crowd of 10,000 protesters on Dec. 16.
The protests began last month over the construction of a controversial crematorium in a small town in Maoming City of Guandong. However, the protest has spilled over to nearby Boyang Town over the construction of another crematorium.
Maoming City Protest
Protests initially erupted on Nov. 28 over the construction of a crematorium in Wenlou Town, in Huazhou County of Maoming City. Riot police were deployed and they beat protesters, including students and seniors. Some protesters flipped over a police vehicle in response to police beating an elderly person—the beating was caught on video and circulated online.
The protesters brought out banners that read: “Liberate Maoming, the Revolution of Our Times,” a slogan borrowed from the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times,” is one of the main slogans used in Hong Kong in recent months.
The police assaulted local villagers that night and detained many young people who they believed took part in the protests. But the protesters remained undeterred, and their protest—which they modeled after Hong Kong’s— had authorities in a panic, according to a Wenlou resident who spoke to the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Nov. 29. Officials announced the suspension of the crematorium on Dec. 2.
Nonetheless, local authorities have warned that the most defiant protesters must turn themselves in to the police—an indication that the authorities are very reluctant to give in to their demands.
The locals are opposed to having a crematorium in their community because they follow the tradition of body burial. They also learned that it would cause a lot of pollution. In addition, the crematorium was going to take up around 24 acres and they wonder why such a big crematorium is needed in a small town. Some netizens even suspect that Chinese authorities had secretly transferred many of the detained Hong Kong protesters to this area and are now in a hurry to construct the crematorium.
Similar to the “five demands” raised by Hong Kong protesters, residents in Wenlou are also raising their own five demands: 1) end the construction of the crematorium; 2) investigate the excessive use of violence by police during the clash on Nov. 28; 3) release all protesters who were arrested; 4) the government shall pay for the repair of damaged public property; 5) restore the construction site of the crematorium to a natural green environment.
Four days later, Li Weihua, the Party boss of Wenlou Town, said publicly that there would never be a crematorium constructed in the town, and he also authorized the release of the arrested protesters.
The director of the Public Security Bureau of Huazhou City also promised to release all the arrested individuals, provide medical treatment to all who were injured during the clashes on Nov. 28 and to compensate them for their injuries. However, he added, “As for those who have seriously violated the law, we will discuss how to handle their case.”
The Boyang Town Protest
Last week, in nearby Boyang Town, which is also part of Huazhou County, a construction crew was digging a foundation, and the workers said it was for a sewage treatment plant. But some residents found out that the site was again intended for a crematorium, and so they called on fellow townspeople to prepare for another protest.
One resident shared on Chinese social media that when he asked local officials about the project, the new female Party boss of Boyang Town said: “We indeed plan to build a crematorium in Boyang. What can you do about it?”
A local villager, who spoke to the Chinese-language Epoch Times on condition of anonymity on Dec. 17, said that the plan to build a crematorium actually started in April in Hejiang Town, which is also part of Huazhou.
“Local authorities lied to the public repeatedly,” he said. “In April, they said a sewage treatment plant would be built in Hejiang Town. But in fact, it was for a crematorium, and the site is less than 0.6 miles from residential communities. Locals protested [and the plan was cancelled]. Last month they again lied to Wenlou residents that an ecological park would be built. Now they want to build it at Boyang Town. Of course we are against it.”
According to this villager, more than 10,000 residents of Boyang Town gathered in front of the township government on Dec. 16. After hours of standoff, due to the pressure from the public, one of the local officials made a very brief promise: “We will not build the crematorium inside the territory of Boyang Town.”
“The public did not believe this one-sentence promise, and most refused to leave,” he said. “The authorities then deployed 200 to 300 policemen. The police beat us and fired tear gas. Many were injured. The protesters responded with bricks, stones, glass bottles and petrol bombs,” he added.
The clash this time was much more intense than the one in Wenlou last month; many people were injured, the villager said.
Later that day, in order to quickly quell the unrest, the local government issued several public notices to appease the residents.
The notice from Huazhou authorities, including the Huazhou Public Security Bureau, said the construction of the sewage treatment plant has been suspended, and “we solemnly promise the public that we will not build a crematorium inside the territory of Boyang Town.”
On Dec. 17, the Huazhou Public Security Bureau issued another notice, calling on all those who were involved in destroying public property, insulting officials, assaulting and intimidating police, to surrender themselves to the police immediately.
“These violent protesters are required to surrender themselves as soon as possible. Otherwise, public security organizations will punish them according to the strictest law,” the notice read.