Residents of Ningbo have been protesting a proposed expansion of a petrochemical plant, citing environmental concerns. From the New York Times [See updates below]:
The protesters, who witnesses said numbered in the thousands, were opposing the expansion of a state-run Sinopec plant, which is already one of the nation’s largest refineries. Local residents, citing environmental concerns, have been demanding that the government move the plant from Ningbo, a prosperous city of 3.4 million in Zhejiang Province, not far from Shanghai.
The clashes come at a delicate time for the government, as it prepares for a once-a-decade change in leadership that is scheduled to begin on Nov. 8 during a weeklong series of meetings in Beijing. Public concerns about industrial pollution have become a problem for the governing Communist Party, which often backs economic growth over public concerns about environmental degradation.
Several hundred citizens of Ningbo, which is in Zhejiang province, set off from a city square and headed for the offices of the municipal government on Sunday morning. Hundreds were stopped at the gate of the offices by a circle of uniformed police. They shouted for the release of people they believed had been detained by police a day earlier, for the protection of Ningbo and for the city’s mayor to come out.
“We can only depend on ourselves now, we can’t count on the government to think about us,” said one protester, a 40-year-old woman surnamed Jing.
On Saturday, residents reported that protests involved thousands of people and turned violent after authorities used tear gas and arrested participants. Authorities said “a few” people disrupted public order by staging sit-ins, unfurling banners, distributing fliers and obstructing roads. Authorities said that the proposed project was under evaluation and that the public was being given opportunities to offer its input.
In a statement, the Zhenhai district government condemned those it blamed for organizing sit-ins and blocking roads in Ningbo but insisted that public sentiment would be taken into consideration before the start of construction. “Detailed information will be published when environmental reviews are implemented, and public opinions on the project will be heeded,” the statement said.
Censors are quickly deleting references to the protests and have banned photo saving and uploading in Ningbo on Sina Weibo. Read about a similar incident in which residents of Xiamen successfully stopped the bid for a paraxylen plant, the same kind that is proposed in Ningbo.
Update: October 28, 8:00 am PST: The New York Times has more details about Sunday’s protests, which also turned violent:
Although the crowds were smaller than on Friday and Saturday, when thousands clashed with the police, resulting in scores of arrests and at least a dozen injuries, hundreds of protesters managed on Sunday to evade roadblocks and police cordons aimed at keeping people from gathering in the center. The protesters, wearing masks and carrying banners that said “We want to survive,” were seeking to stop the expansion of a state-run Sinopec plant that is already one of China’s largest refineries.
On Sunday, the government promised to cancel the expansion. But details were scant, and protesters met the announcement with skepticism, vowing to continue.
Residents, citing environmental concerns, have been demanding that the government move the plant from Ningbo, a prosperous city of 3.4 million in Zhejiang Province, near Shanghai.
During a confrontation outside the district government office on Sunday, the throng chanted slogans, made obscene gestures and demanded that the mayor of Ningbo come out and address the crowd, according to participants. At one point, riot police descended on the crowd, tearing down protest banners and dragging away at least three people, they said.
Rioting erupted amid rumours that police had beaten to death a local college student — a rumour police immediately denied.
“Those people circulating fabricated rumours that ‘police have beaten to death a college student’ have had an odious social impact,” Zhenhai police said in a posting on their microblog site.
“Following investigation it was found that a certain woman had spread the rumour, (she) will be dealt with in accordance with law. The police warn citizens not to believe rumours and not to spread them.”
Molihua.org has posted numerous photos of the protests originally posted on weibo, including these below:
A photo circulating on Weibo and Twitter shows road signs for Ningbo covered up by authorities to prevent protesters and journalists from converging on the city:
Another widely circulated photo shows the crowd of protesters hoisting up a foreign journalist:
Also see footage of the protests from Al Jazeera:
Several video clips of the protests are available on YouTube via CDT Chinese.