2,000 protest against maglev

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2008, 12:00am

Thousands of people protested against the construction of a maglev train line in Shanghai yesterday, the largest in a series of demonstrations last week against the project.

Witnesses said more than 2,000 people braved near freezing temperatures to protest outside the main government building in downtown Shanghai. Police detained hundreds of protesters and used buses to haul them away.

The protest was perhaps Shanghai's largest since anti-Japan demonstrations in April 2005, when an estimated 20,000 people marched on the Japanese consulate and smashed windows of Japanese-related businesses during a day-long demonstration that took place with the unspoken approval of the government.

Protesters yesterday chanted 'We don't want the maglev', 'Oppose the maglev' and 'Protect our homes'. Scuffles broke out between them and police when officers tried to arrest people.

Witnesses claim they saw police hit or pull the hair of some protesters, but officers refrained from using batons, electric prods or pepper spray. At least two foreign journalists were detained for 'illegal reporting' but were released after about an hour.

The renewed protests follow the Shanghai government's apparent decision to proceed with the project although there has been no official announcement. City planners posted a new route for the line on a website on December 29.

The protesters came from communities along the proposed route. They fear the train, powered by magnetic levitation, could harm their health, generate noise and cause home values to plummet.

Shanghai already has a maglev line from its international airport to the Longyang Road metro station in eastern Pudong district. The city plans to extend the line to the World Expo site, its southern railway station, domestic airport and eventually to the city of Hangzhou .