Police accused of quashing farmers' pollution protest

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am

A protest by farmers against a pharmaceutical plant in Xinchang county, Zhejiang , has been resolved, Xinhua reported yesterday.

But other sources said police had simply suppressed the farmers and nothing had been resolved.

The developments came one day ahead of a local government deadline, after a week-long cleanup at the factory and a pledge to move it by 2007.

Sources told the South China Morning Post that the problem had not really been solved, with police merely clamping down on protests in the area after hundreds of farmers forced the factory to close on July 15.

A villager in Shengzhou surnamed Wang said the local government was attempting to cover up and quell the protest, but the farmers were still angry about water pollution caused by the Jingxin Pharmaceutical plant.

In order to prevent further protests, police from Xinchang and Shengzhou had requested help from officers in neighbouring villages, she said.

The police stations had issued five public warnings over the past four days in order to dissuade farmers from joining gatherings or protests.

'People carrying rods, rocks or farm tools are not allowed to enter the area of the pharmaceutical plant in Xinchang,' she said.

'Jingxin Pharmaceutical plant is the main taxpayer in Xinchang,' she said. 'The government is going to protect it.

'However, not only has it polluted our water resources, but it has also contaminated the air.

'Our young people have not been fit enough to qualify for military service since then.'

The protest began on July 4 when dozens of farmers went to the plant to ask for compensation for ruined crops and free medical checkups. They also demanded that the factory be forced to meet all pollution control standards.

Hundreds of farmers joined the protest after the factory rejected those requests. Meanwhile, the factory asked Shaoxing police for help to suppress the protest.

Xinhua said the protest had forced a halt to production at the factory, prompting officials in Shaoxing, Xinchang and Shengzhou to set yesterday as the deadline for finding a resolution for the problem.