Residents of a town in southern China said Monday that demonstrators protesting the building of a coal-fired power plant had thrown bricks at police officers who fired volleys of tear gas and detained dozens of people in the latest unrest over an environmental dispute. At least 1,000 people in the town, Yinggehai, on Hainan Island, began protesting last week after construction resumed on the plant, which had been halted by earlier demonstrations. […]
Environmental issues have been a source of tension in recent years. According to the Washington Post, the protest turned into a violent nine day clash between villagers and police:
Fearing that such a plant could devastate the environment, residents, who mostly depend on fishing as their livelihood, began to protest the project Oct. 13. On that first day, it was mostly older women demonstrating in front of the local government’s fishery department, according to one witness, who owns a fishing business and like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing crackdown by authorities. Town officials did not return calls seeking comment.
The women decided to confiscate as evidence of local officials’ lies and ill intent a sign for the harbor project that referred to it as a “fishing harbor” rather than a “coal-shipping harbor,” said the business owner.
When armed police tried to snatch back the sign, one of the women was hurt, which touched off widespread anger among the village’s men. That night, men turned out by the thousands and began throwing stones and bricks at police, who, in return, fired tear gas.
For days afterward, the protest followed a pattern of women protesting by day in front of the armed police and men clashing with authorities at night, when it is more difficult to photograph and identify violent protesters.
“Right now there are police guarding all of the main streets, and they are stopping any vehicles from driving in the direction of the township government buildings,” said a township resident surnamed Liu.
He added: “The police are detaining people on the streets. None of the local people dares to come out, or to speak out.”
Meanwhile, an official at the Ledong county government denied that any Yinggehai protesters had been detained.
“This never happened,” the official said. “The final location of the coal-fired power plant hasn’t been decided yet, so how could there be protests and detentions as you are describing?”
Read more about environmental protests in China, via CDT.