Villagers pay high price for steel plant project

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am

Thousands of residents in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, have been left jobless, homeless and unemployed as a result of the local government's plan to invest 70 billion yuan (HK$85.6 billion) to create an iron and steel production base on the city's scenic Donghai Island.

The plant, to be built by China's largest steel group, Baosteel, was among more than 100 projects approved last month by the National Development and Reform Commission.

Guangdong media ran a photo on May 28 of Zhanjiang Mayor Wang Zhongbing kissing the approval document. He said the local government had spent more than 10 billion yuan on infrastructure and had relocated more than 10,000 villagers from 10 villages to make way for the plant.

Not everyone is as happy.

On May 22, Zhu Huilai in Beiyuan village, Donghai, tried to stop authorities from removing his fruit trees to make way for the steel plant. Villagers said that his son Zhu Peirang became angry when his father was assaulted, and drove into a group of government officials and police. He attacked them with a knife, injuring several and killing one police officer.

Zhanjiang authorities offered a different version, saying the father and son attacked officials peacefully cutting grass and cleaning the land.

The Peninsula Metropolis Daily reported yesterday that most villagers of Donghai had been asked to move three years ago, meaning they had to abandon their farmland.

Families have subsequently been broken up, as each was given only a 12-square-metre room in temporary housing, plus 300 yuan a month for each person. The community where they are to be permanently relocated is still under construction.

Zhou Chao , a reporter with the newspaper who interviewed local villagers last month, wrote on his microblog that he had been detained for more than nine hours on May 31, and forced to delete all the photos he took on Donghai Island.

Villagers posted online that local authorities had cut electricity and water, and closed a local school, to force them out of their homes.