'Hong Kong activist' arrested over village incinerator protest

Police take hard line against trio accused of organising demonstration in Huizhou

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 8:56am

Guangdong police have arrested three activists, one of them a Hong Kong resident, for organising protests over a planned incinerator in Huizhou.

The Huiyang district police bureau said in an online statement yesterday that the three detainees were suspected of "disrupting social order by attempting to mobilise several thousand villagers to demonstrate in front of local government buildings".

A Beijing-based environmentalist who has studied mainland incinerator projects, and who wished to remain anonymous, said that Pan Yu, a Hong Kong resident, was arrested on August 30 during a trip to Shenzhen.

"Villagers and other property owners, mostly from Shenzhen, oppose the incinerator so they soon joined the protests against the project," the environmentalist said. "But police accused Pan and two others of leading local villagers in the protests."

Pan and the two other suspects own property near the planned incinerator location.

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Immigration Department said last night it had not received any request for assistance.

The arrests are the latest in a series of detentions as mainland authorities take a harder line on protests against construction seen by local residents as undesirable for their neighbourhoods.

The incineration plant, planned for Shatian town with a daily burning capacity of 1,200 tonnes, is strongly opposed by residents of Lanzilong village and a nearby property development.

Local environmental authorities have tried to reassure residents that the incinerator would be safe, saying it uses the most advanced technology and similar environmental standards to those in the European Union.

But many villagers remain unconvinced. Residents have protested three times this year, according to media reports, with the biggest turnout estimated at several hundred. Protesters and police clashed at one rally in May, attended by 60 demonstrators, of whom 10 were detained briefly.

The police statement said the incinerator had won majority support from local residents.

Incinerator projects have become a popular cause for environmental protests on the mainland in recent years, with some residents fearing that the emissions cause cancer. Earlier this year, about 10 protesters against an sewage pipeline in Jiangsu received criminal charges.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok