Protests Over Power Plant Escalate in Haimen (with Video)

While the siege of Wukan appears to have ended with yesterday’s compromise by Communist Party officials, Hong Kong newspapers are reporting that protests 75 miles away in Haimen intensified today over plans to build a coal-fired power plant. From Reuters:

Angry crowds smashed and overturned police cars and riot police fired teargas in Haimen town in Shantou city on Wednesday, the second day of the unrest, newspapers reported.

Government officials, including those from the security arm, have been vague and appeared to play down the unrest. A Shantou official told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday that there had been injuries but no deaths.

Witnesses said police fired four rounds of teargas and beat up protesters, who do not want another power plant when existing power facilities there were already polluting air and seawater and had greatly reduced their catch at sea, Mingpao reported.

NBC’s Adrienne Mong also reported via Twitter around mid-day on Thursday that Chinese police had blocked off the highway entrance to Haimen and fired a tear gas-like substance to disperse a crowd of onlookers that attempted to approach.

Villagers first took to the streets in Haimen on Tuesday, angry over recent reports in the state media that proposed expansion plans to a power plant failed environmental safety tests. AFP reported that 15-year-old boy had been killed and more than 100 others badly beaten by riot police, though a local official denied that any deaths had occurred during an interview with Reuters. Authorities agreed on Tuesday to suspend the power plant project, but residents have continued to protest and demand that the project be cancelled altogether. The ongoing situation in Haimen also comes in the wake of comments made yesterday by Politburo member and security chief Zhou Yongkang that authorities should enforce the law in a civil manner to avoid further violent disputes. From AFP:

“(We must) deepen our efforts to mediate conflicts and disputes, improving the system of mediation to resolve conflicts and disputes at the grassroots level and nip them in the bud,” said Zhou, in comments reported by the official Xinhua news agency.

“We must also adhere to civilised standards of law enforcement, and deal with mass incidents and individual extremist events according to the law.”

Zhou did not explicitly mention the handover, but he said 2012 was a year of “special significance” for the country’s development.

“Every political and legal organ must enhance their political awareness… and their sense of responsibility,” he said.

“We must take the initiative and effectively prevent and crack down on all separatist and disruptive, violent and terrorist criminal activities.”

Videos of the protests and subsequent police action have been posted on YouTube:

(h/t Jordan Pouille)

Photos have also been posted to Google Plus, including the following (h/t Wen Yunchao):