Wenzhou villagers riot over substation they fear is health threat

More than 1,000 Wenzhou locals clash with police over plant they fear is a health threat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 4:58am

More than 1,000 villagers have clashed with police in Wenzhou over the construction of an electrical substation, despite recent central government promises for changes to reduce "not in my backyard" movements.

Hundreds of the protestors in Liuliang and Fangbei villages were injured after confronting police, in a bid to stop construction of a 220-kilovolt substation. The project would require building high-voltage power lines over their homes, which some feared could threaten their health.

At least four police cars and a local media van were badly damaged in the clashes, which involved protests in each of the two villages.

The earlier protest, in Liuliang, involved about 1,000 villagers and 2,000 police, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said yesterday. Two police cars were smashed and officers closed roads to the restive village.

A smaller protest in Fangbei continued until yesterday afternoon, when police called in reinforcements to help disperse some 300 villagers, said one resident who uploaded a video of the scene to the internet. The footage shows police firing tear gas at stone-throwing protesters.

Local residents have been trying to stop the project for more than a year and have petitioned in the provincial capital of Hangzhou , as well as Beijing. Protesters reportedly clashed with police during a rally outside the township's government headquarters last year.

"So far, authorities haven't responded to us on this," a villager said. "They haven't given us any money for this damaging project, either, although they always claim that they have distributed compensation to us."

Disputes over large construction projects are occurring with increasing regularity on the mainland, including a successful effort to stop the expansion of a petrochemical plant in Ningbo last month.

Last week, Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian blamed the rise of "not in my backyard" movements on poor management by local authorities and promised measures to improve transparency and environmental reviews.