Police tight-lipped after riots close down Fujian leather plants

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am

Authorities in Quanzhou city , Fujian , refused to confirm yesterday whether any arrests had been made over raids last week by hundreds of villagers on 11 foreign-owned leather factories accused of pollution.

About 500 farmers from several villages stormed the factories in Quangang district's Puan Leather Centralisation Control Region, forcing the plants to shut down, a Yechu villager said.

Armed with sticks, the villagers went on a rampage that lasted more than six hours and destroyed almost all of the factories' facilities, he said.

'Some policemen were sent to the scene during the attack, but I didn't hear of them detaining anyone,' the villager said.

A Hong Kong-based newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, said the violence resulted in injuries to a dozen workers, two of whom were in a serious condition, and inflicted economic losses of up to 100 million yuan.

A Quangang district official said the violence was triggered by local officials' failure over the past few years to monitor the leather industry's compliance with environmental standards.

More than 100 villagers attacked four leather factories in the same region in April last year after factory discharges contaminated farmland and groundwater supporting 50,000 people in seven neighbouring villages.

The riot stopped after local officials promised to solve the problem within four months.

The villager said residents had lost patience after local officials' repeated failures to keep their word.

'The foul water in our streams is smellier than a public toilet,' he said. 'The choking air has eased since the factories stopped work on Friday.'

A cadre from Zhongchu village, one of the seven affected communities, said many people in Quangang supported the attack on the factories.

'I can tell you that air and water pollution is very critical here although I know I shouldn't tell you that,' the official said.

A spokeswoman from the Quangang police bureau confirmed the violence occurred, but refused to say whether any arrests had been made.

'I am not clear about the incident because it is under investigation,' she said.



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