On the back of the earlier Shifang 什邡 protests against a copper smelting plant in Sichuan, another mass environmental protest sees the cancellation of a second Chinese industrial project. This time it’s in the eastern provinces as the coastal community of Qidong 启东 creates a successful outcry against extensive pollution problems with the pipeline a long simmering issue. Beyond a sensitivity on pollution, it seems both state and people have a new dynamic when it comes to seeing eye to eye; and it’s one that has caught the public eye.
They say a picture says a thousand words, and this site is packed with images taken from the clash.
For more, see China’s rapid industrialization fuels more public protests (USA Today, July 29, 2012) and from Chinese state media: Nantong government cancelled Japanese paper factory’s pollution-causing project (Global Times, July 29, 2012))
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China Move Reflects Sensitivity on Pollution
By Carlos Tejada
Source – Wall Street Journal, published July 29, 2012
BEIJING—The cancellation over the weekend of a second Chinese industrial project in a month following fierce environmental protests demonstrates the government’s growing sensitivity to China’s pollution problems.
Officials in the coastal community of Qidong in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu said Saturday that they would stop construction of a pipeline intended to dump wastewater from a Japanese-owned paper mill into the sea. Worries about pollution sparked protests early Saturday that the state-run Xinhua news agency said drew thousands.
Photos posted online by residents showed crowds swarming around government offices and filling nearby streets, as well as at least one overturned car.
Later Saturday, Qidong officials said on their website that the government of Nantong—the city-level government that oversees Qidong—had decided to stop the project, without releasing additional details. Nantong Mayor Zhang Guohua also appeared on TV to announce the news.
Calls to Qidong city officials weren’t picked up on Saturday. The plant is owned by Japan’s Oji Paper Co. according to government officials. The company didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment.
Locals worried that the water would pollute the nearby Yangtze River or the nearby sea, which is a prime fishing area. Oji Paper said in a statement that reports that there are carcinogenic substances in the water are totally “groundless.” The company also said that its purification treatment clears China’s national standards and that the company handles water treatment with a sense of responsibility.
The successful public outcry follows a similar situation earlier this month in Shifang, a small city in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. Officials there on July 3 scrapped a planned metals plant following protests that led to violent clashes with police. Photos from those clashes showing bloodied protesters sparked a national outcry on the Chinese Internet.
China is grappling with extensive pollution problems as a consequence of its rapid economic growth. The issue has risen in importance in recent years and is sometimes cited as one reason that many wealthy Chinese consider moving abroad, according to surveys. In a nod to those growing concerns, Chinese central government officials have embarked on a number of measures to reduce China’s dependence on fossil fuels and to tighten environmental regulations.
Still, officials also appear to worry about the prospects of such protests spreading. The term “Qidong” appeared to be blocked on Saturday in China’s popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service, which serves as the closest thing to a national forum on domestic issues in a country that keeps a tight rein on political discourse.
Qidong’s police authority warned residents on its microblog account on Saturday not to further gather or “spread rumors”—a term often used by the authorities in China to curb discussion of sensitive topics.
The Qidong pipeline is a long-simmering local issue, with online discussion stretching back to at least 2010. On Thursday, a notice on the community’s website said local officials would take local concerns into consideration but warned residents against illegal gatherings.
—Yang Jie in Shanghai and Daisuke Wakabayashi in Tokyo contributed to this article.
Write to Carlos Tejada at email@example.com