Public Storm in Dalian

The recent cycle of public protests against environmental pollution, such as one in Dalian against a PX factory, may gained desired results for the activists but also show that neither side is playing by the rules, according to a report from China Dialogue:

On environmental issues, “interaction without rules” normally goes through three stages: first, local interest groups and local governments push ahead with a polluting project in violation of environmental regulations. Second, local people spontaneously organise mass protests against the project in question, an activity supported by neither law nor policy. And third, in response to the threat to social stability created by the protests, local government halts the project – again, breaching laws. At every stage, the existing rules are lightly cast aside by all participants.

Take the Dalian case as an example: available material shows that construction of the PX project violated regulations. This major polluter is located just 20 kilometres from the city centre – closer than is permitted by government standards. And the plant started production before the environmental authorities had even authorised trial operations. These serious breaches of process should themselves have led to severe sanctions, but thanks to local government support, the project quietly went ahead, out of public sight.

During the protests that followed, exaggerated claims about the dangers of PX spread like wildfire, while online videos show the demonstrations were more unruly than those against a waste incinerator in Panyu, Guangdong, two years ago, for example.

Then, in the third stage, the Dalian authorities ruled that the facility must move – again without following due legal process or properly attributing responsibility, and leaving the taxpayers to foot the astronomical costs of relocation. As with the original decision to build the plant, the local government’s resolution to move it was not the result of due legal and administrative procedures, and there was no effective public participation or supervision.

Read more about the Dalian PX protests via CDT.

September 6, 2011 11:00 PM
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