Mon, Jul 30, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Tenuous calm after pollution protests in Chinese coastal city of Qidong

AFP, SHANGHAI

Protesters are seen outside the local government offices in Qidong in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province during a demonstration against a industrial project.

Photo: AFP

Protesters in a restive east China city remained off the streets yesterday amid heavy police deployment, residents said, a day after violent clashes over fears of pollution from a paper factory.

The coastal city of Qidong, near Shanghai, seemed calm after local officials on Saturday announced a waste water pipeline project from the paper mill, which belongs to Japanese company Oji Paper, would be “permanently cancelled.”

However, it was unclear whether that would be enough to address the concerns of demonstrators who clashed with police, overturned cars and ransacked government offices in rioting involving tens of thousands of people.

“People don’t dare to go out in the streets today,” said a local resident, who for safety reasons only gave her name as Qin.

“Thousands of security forces have been deployed to Qidong to prevent further gatherings against the police,” she said, adding that residents were wary of police retaliation after some were beaten in Saturday’s protests.

Up to three people were killed in the violence and scores were injured, while up to 100 were detained by police, according to rights watchdog Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

The violence began after police began beating a young female protester, it said, citing witnesses.

Phone calls to local government and police offices went unanswered yesterday while searches including “Qidong” have been blocked since Saturday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site.

Protests against ecological degradation have mounted in China, where three decades of rapid industrial expansion have taken their toll on the environment.

The sewage pipe from the paper mill would have discharged into the sea in the port of Lusi, said Qin, who was among Saturday’s protesters.

Discharges were set to climb to 150,000 tonnes of sewage a day when the mill was fully operational, according to residents quoted on Friday by the state-run Global Times newspaper.

The move to close the paper mill’s waste water pipeline comes after Chinese authorities this month scrapped plans to build a US$1.6 billion metals plant in Sichuan Province following violent protests by residents concerned about the planned factory’s environmental impact.

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