Tue, Sep 20, 2011 - Page 5 News List

China solar panel plant shuts down

AFP, HAINING, CHINA

China has ordered the closure of a solar panel factory in the east of the country after hundreds of local residents staged violent protests over pollution, authorities said yesterday.

The closure of the plant, which manufactures solar panels for the US-listed company Jinko Solar, follows the shut-down of a chemical factory in northeastern China after about 12,000 residents took to the streets over pollution fears.

The swift decision to close the plant demonstrates official concern over mounting public anger about pollution in China, where focus on economic growth in recent decades has led to widespread environmental degradation.

The protesters broke into the factory in Zhejiang Province’s Haining City, ransacking offices and overturning vehicles before being forced back by police in a three-day protest that began on Thursday, according to state media reports.

They were demanding an explanation for the death of large numbers of fish in a nearby river, Xinhua news agency said.

Haining City Government said yesterday tests had showed the factory was emitting excessive levels of fluoride, which can be toxic in high doses, as it announced the plant’s closure.

“[The city government] ordered the company to halt production and overhaul the production procedures that involve emission of waste gas and waste water,” it said in a statement.

“[It will] go all out to maintain stability and seriously deal with those who are suspected of violating laws in the incident in accordance with the law,” it said.

The city also said police had detained a man for spreading “rumors” on the Internet about the number of sufferers of leukemia and other cancers living near the plant.

Jinko Solar, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has more than 10,000 employees in plants in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces, according to its Web site.

The company’s chief financial officer, Zhang Longgen, said waste containing fluoride had been stored outside the factory and polluted a nearby river after heavy rains late last month.

“It was an accident. The waste stacks were not taken away on time,” Zhang said by telephone, adding that the company would pay damages to villagers.

“There is no need to overreact,” he added.

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