China cancels waste project after protests turn violent

QIDONG, China Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:54pm BST

1 of 2. Demonstrators stand inside a destroyed office at the local government building during a protest against an industrial waste pipeline under construction in Qidong, Jiangsu Province July 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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QIDONG, China (Reuters) - Chinese officials cancelled an industrial waste pipeline project on Saturday after anti-pollution demonstrators occupied a government office in eastern China, destroying computers and overturning cars.

The demonstration was the latest in a string of protests sparked by fears of environmental degradation and highlights the social tensions the government in Beijing faces as it approaches a leadership transition this year.

It was also the second cancellation of an industrial project this month, as officials buckle under pressure from protests.

Zhang Guohua, city mayor of the eastern China city of Nantong, said in a statement the city would terminate the planned pipeline that would have emptied waste water from a Japanese-owned paper factory via the coastal town of Qidong into the sea.

The decision came hours after about 1,000 protesters marched through the city of Qidong, about one hour north of Shanghai, shouting slogans against the pipeline.

Several protesters entered the city government's main building and were seen smashing computers, overturning desks and throwing documents out the windows to loud cheers from the crowd. Reuters witnessed five cars and one minibus being overturned.

At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten enough to make them bleed.

Environmental worries have stoked calls for expanded rights for citizens and greater consultation in the tightly controlled one-party state.

The outpouring of public anger is emblematic of the rising discontent facing Chinese leaders, who are obsessed with maintaining stability and struggling to balance growth with rising public anger over environmental threats.

The protest followed similar demonstrations against projects the Sichuan town of Shifang earlier this month and in the cities of Dalian in the northeast and Haimen in southern Guangdong province in the past year.

The leadership has vowed to clean up China's skies and waterways and increasingly tried to appear responsive to complaints about pollution. But environmental disputes pit citizens against local officials whose aim is to lure fresh investment and revenue into their areas.

(Additional reporting by Carlos Barria; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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