Protesters in Kunming and Chengdu Fight Pollution

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in Kunming, Yunnan to protest plans by China National Petroleum Corporation to build a plant in a nearby town which would produce the hazardous chemical paraxylene (PX). From BBC:

Some demonstrators wore symbolic masks and brandished posters warning against the dangers of a paraxylene (PX) spill.

“We want to survive, we want health, get PX out of Kunming”, a banner read.

Two years ago, protests against a PX factory in the city of Dalian forced the city government to close the plant, though it reportedly re-opened later.

Saturday’s protest in Kunming, in the south-west of the country, attracted at least 200 people, according to state media.

Chinese bloggers, however, put the number at up to 2,000.

A Xinhua report claimed about 100 protesters gathered, along with 1000 “onlookers” who were also wearing face masks and holding banners. But witnesses say the number of protesters was higher:



Also on Saturday, calls went out online, and were quickly squashed, for protests against the construction of an oil refinery plant near Chengdu. From ABC News Australia:

Police also lined the streets of Chengdu, the capital of southwest China’s Sichuan province, after locals planned to demonstrate over a nearby chemical plant, residents said.

“There were a lot of police outside government offices, public spaces and important crossroads in the city,” one resident surnamed Liu said, adding that fliers posted around the city in recent days had called for a protest.

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The government responded with notices calling on people not to demonstrate, Liu said.

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Local police on Saturday morning announced that they would be carrying out an earthquake protection drill, a claim dismissed by thousands of internet users.

And from AP:

After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus.

And when Saturday came, thousands of police officers and security staff were on Chengdu’s streets, some of them making a tight ring around a major public square. A weekend-long earthquake drill, officials said, but many residents didn’t believe it. They said city officials pre-emptively quashed the protest over a petrochemical plant that a powerful state-owned enterprise is building about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Chengdu.

“What do they fear?” asked local resident Tina Zhong, contacted via China’s social media. “If the government can share more information, the public would be less distrusting.”

Weibo posts about the protests were censored and activists were detained ahead of the planned protest. Anti-PX protests have flared up in Dalian and Xiamen when plans were announced to build plants there in recent years.