Issue Date: April 18, 2005
Chinese Riot Over Pollution
BUSINESS IN ASIA
According to reports from a variety of news agencies, villagers in China's Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, are protesting pollution from recently built chemical plants. Thousands of residents of Huaxi, near the city of Dongyang, reportedly fought off police sent to break up the demonstration and remained in control of their town as C&EN went to press.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, whose reporter was arrested as he left the protest site, reports that villagers started blockading a road leading to a chemical plant on March 24 after local and central government officials refused to listen to their complaints.
The protest turned violent on April 10 when hundreds of police officers sent to remove the roadblock started clubbing elderly protesters, and rumors flew that one older woman had been killed. Villagers rioted, pelting police with rocks and overturning cars. About 80 officers were injured, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Villagers have complained to the press that local officials abused their power by allowing the construction of 13 chemical plants on rural land since 2001. They claim that the plants have polluted the area, and that there have been nine cases of stillbirths and deformed babies in the past year alone. It's unclear what the plants make or who owns them.
Public concern over pollution is mounting in China. Reflecting a change in official priorities, the state media has improved its coverage of environmental matters. Xinhua reported last week that hundreds of residents were evacuated after a chemical facility leaked chlorine in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu province.
The State Environmental Protection Agency is becoming more assertive as well. SEPA told Chinese reporters last week that the Ministry of Water Resources was partly to blame for the lack of progress in improving water quality in the contaminated Huai River.
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