Kunming residents rally against chemical plant
March in Kunming against planned building of industrial complex, but Chengdu rally thwarted
One of two rallies in the southwest in protest at controversial chemical plants went ahead yesterday, but a second was thwarted.
Hundreds protested in Kunming, Yunnan province, but a march in Chengdu, Sichuan province, was prevented by police. The rallies were timed to coincide with the anniversary of the May 4 student demonstrations in Beijing in 1919.
More than 1,000 people gathered in the centre of Kunming to oppose plans to build a petrochemical plant in the satellite city of Anning where China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the nation's largest oil producer, plans to build a refinery to process more than 10 million tonnes of crude oil a year.
Officials have assured local residents that environmental protection and safety will be their priority but many protesters fear that once the refinery opens, production of potentially hazardous paraxylene (PX) will follow.
Watched by police, protesters gathered in a central street wearing masks and holding placards with slogans such as "PX … Get out of Kunming".
A witness said the protest broke up without incident.
Protesters planning to demonstrate in Chengdu and nearby Pengzhou , the site of a planned PX plant, were thwarted after authorities pre-emptively sealed off several landmarks including Tianfu Plaza and Jiuyan Bridge. Police claimed their large presence was part of an earthquake drill.
Since May 4, 2008, Pengzhou residents have been protesting against the construction of a 40-billion yuan (HK$50 billion) petrochemical plant by CNPC.
"The authorities are playing a contemptible trick, in the name of an earthquake drill and assisting earthquake rescue," Chen Ji, a local journalist, said. "But what they did was just to fool and scare the public."
Angry protesters instead voiced their discontent on the Sina Weibo microblog site yesterday.
The words "Pengzhou" and "Tianfu Plaza" were blocked to searches through social media.
"The billion-yuan project will give officials their high gross domestic product, but will bring only pollution and cancer for residents," Chen said . "We love our home and will never give way - like the people of Ningbo."
In October, construction of an oil and petrochemical complex was suspended in Ningbo , Zhejiang province, after thousands of residents clashed with police for a week.