Tenuous calm after China pollution protests
SHANGHAI – Protesters in a restive east China city remained off the streets yesterday amid heavy police deployment, residents said, a day after violent clashes over fears of pollution from a paper factory.
The coastal city of Qidong, near Shanghai, seemed calm after local officials on Saturday announced a waste water pipeline project from the paper mill, which belongs to Japanese company Oji Paper, would be “permanently cancelled”.
But it was unclear whether that would be enough to address the concerns of demonstrators who clashed with police, overturned cars and ransacked government offices in rioting involving tens of thousands of people.
“People don’t dare to go out in the streets today,” said a local resident, who for safety reasons only gave her name as Qin.
“Thousands of security forces have been deployed to Qidong to prevent further gatherings against the police,” she told AFP, adding that residents were wary of police retaliation after some were beaten in Saturday’s protests.
Up to three people were killed in the violence and scores were injured, while up to 100 were detained by police, according to rights watchdog Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
The violence began after police began violently beating a young female protester, it said, citing witnesses.
Phone calls to local government and police offices went unanswered yesterday while searches including ‘Qidong’ have been blocked since Saturday on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
Protests against ecological degradation have increased in China, where three decades of rapid and unfettered industrial expansion have taken their toll on the environment.
The sewage pipe from the paper mill would have discharged into the sea in the port of Lusi, one of four fishing harbours in Qidong, said Qin, who was among Saturday’s protesters.
Discharges were set to climb to 150 000 tonnes of sewage a day when the mill was fully operational, according to residents quoted Friday by the state-run Global Times newspaper.
The move to close the paper mill’s waste water pipeline comes after Chinese authorities this month scrapped plans to build a $1.6 billion metals plant in the southwest province of Sichuan following violent protests by local residents concerned about the planned factory’s environmental impact.
Similar incidents are reported regularly around China, many over environmental concerns that locals say are linked to corruption, but authorities typically quash the protests and push ahead with the projects.
The Chinese government warned on Friday that security would be tightened throughout the country ahead of a major Communist Party Congress this autumn, which should see a new generation of leaders take over the reins of power. – Nampa-AFP