New post 'won't shift blame' for police action

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


Appointing a first party secretary to Shifang in Sichuan may not help the city address residents' discontent over its handling of plans - now scrapped - to build a heavy-metal processing plant, analysts said.

Zuo Zheng , a deputy mayor of Deyang , a city which administers Shifang, has been named first secretary of its Communist Party committee. City party chief Li Chengjin retains his position but was asked to assist Zuo, the city government announced on Thursday.

The post of party first secretary has not been used on the mainland for nearly two decades, and creating one in Shifang would not answer questions of accountability for the mishandling of protests this week that led to the plant's scrapping, said Zhu Lijia , a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance. 'Obviously Li should be held responsible for the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators,' Zhu said.

Residents began protesting on Sunday against the molybdenum-copper alloy plant. Tens of thousands rallied in the following two days, and police responded with force. The number of injured is not known, but police detained more than two dozen; three remain in custody.

The city government agreed on Tuesday to cancel the project, a rare concession to public demands over environmental concerns.

Several Shifang residents contacted by the South China Morning Post appeared indifferent to the new appointment. He Wu, a 46-year-old who owns a clinic in Shifang, said: 'What we want is a safe environment. This is a simple and legitimate demand, no matter who heads the government.'

Having two party chiefs would only make decisions harder, said Hu Xingdou , a political analyst at the Beijing Technology Institute, suggesting the appointment could be temporary.

Additional reporting by Wei Hanyang