Protests rage in Haimen despite huge police presence
Broken beer bottles, bricks, stones and masks used to protect protesters from tear gas littered the streets of the township of Haimen, in Shantou, eastern Guangdong, yesterday as several thousand angry residents staged a second day of protests against plans to build another large power plant nearby.
Police cars were smashed and the plaque of Haimen's People's Congress was torn down and thrown into the street by angry protesters. The Shenzhen-Shantou highway, which links Haimen with the outside world, was blocked by thousands of riot police for the second day, preventing villagers from occupying it.
More than 100 police vehicles were parked along the highway and several hundred police involved in a crackdown on protesting residents on Tuesday night slept on the road. Just 300 metres away, roads were obscured by a haze of tear gas fired by police to disperse protesters.
A large service station close to the highway was forced to shut down after it was besieged by several hundred villagers shouting slogans and demanding that the government abandon plans to build another coal-fired power plant in the area.
'Look at how many villagers have died of cancer these past few years,' a furious mother shouted. 'Do you know how many Haimen people are lying in hospital beds?'
Residents say a power plant built by Huaneng Power in 2006 has devastated the local environment, polluting the air and drinking water in the town of 200,000, with fishermen losing their livelihoods due to pollution of surrounding waters.
A petition prepared by residents alleges that the death rate from irregular causes in Haimen is the highest in Guangdong province.
'Authorities override the law and disregard the health concerns of several hundred thousands villagers living in and around Haimen ... to further their political careers,' the petition says.
'Such economic output is stained with our blood.'
Xinhua yesterday dismissed reports of widespread arrests and injuries, saying that only one protester had suffered minor injuries. But several villagers said they had seen protesters taken away by police since Tuesday, and that many villagers had been injured while fighting police.
Yesterday demonstrators began to disperse in the afternoon.
Mainland and Hong Kong reporters who tried to conduct interviews with villagers were attacked by strangers and harassed by propaganda officials.
Xinhua said yesterday that the Shantou city government had sent 100 representatives to Haimen to try to defuse the tension. Spokesmen for Huaneng Power International and Huadian Power International said they were not aware of the protests.
Additional reporting by Eric Ng