Villager assaulted after challenging official to swim in polluted river
A Zhejiang villager said he was attacked by a group of villagers after he had offered an environmental official some money to swim in a polluted river.
Pailian villager Chen Yuqian, 60, made the offer last Wednesday so the official could find out how polluted the river was. But instead, Chen Yuqian was roughed up by over 40 villagers on Sunday morning, his daughter Chen Xiufang revealed on microblog Sina Weibo.
The daughter posted photos online showing her father with scratches and bruises on his face. She told SCMP.com the assault was orchestrated by village officials in retaliation for previous petitions about water pollution.
Pailian village officials did not respond on Tuesday to SCMP.com’s inquires about the attack.
Chen Yuqian was one of several residents in Zhejiang, who recently posted blogs on Sina Weibo offering cash rewards to environmental officials if they swam in polluted rivers. It is a new way citizens in China are using to raise public awareness about water pollution.
Chen Xiufang said her family had campaigned against water pollution in their village for years. In a petition letter also posted online, her family accused Pailian officials of working with two local paper mills to illegally dump industrial waste into waterways. This had polluted the drinking water of more than 200 villagers, she claimed.
Zhang Yibin, head of the Qingshanhu Environmental Protection Department (which has responsibility for Pailian village) told SCMP.com he was aware of the Chens’ complaints.
But Zhang denied his staff had done nothing about the issue. He said the paper mills were operating in accordance with regulations.
“We monitor the factories’ waste disposal and water quality closely. There is no illegal water pollution,” he said.
Zhang also dismissed concerns about drinking the water. He said local tap water was supplied by the Qingshanhu Reservoir. “Pollution can’t move upstream, can it?” he remarked.
A former staffer at the regional Bureau for Letters and Calls, surnamed Gao, told SCMP.com one of the paper mill owners was also the village chief of Pailian. He said the Chen family has had longstanding land disputes with him.