Maoming residents protesting against a proposed petrochemical project in the southern Guangdong city greeted local officials' vow to solicit public feedback with scepticism.
The city government of Maoming - buffeted by corruption scandals - has resorted to violence to disperse peaceful protesters, while silencing public outcry over the project, local residents told the South China Morning Post yesterday.
"It's the fifth day since the protest began," one resident said. "The mayor of Maoming has yet to respond to our demands."
Protests broke out on Saturday against the proposed addition of a 3.5 billion yuan (HK$4.4 billion) paraxylene (PX) plant to the city's petrochemical complex jointly run by the local government and state-owned oil giant Sinopec. Demonstrators voiced environmental and health concerns.
The rally spread to the provincial capital of Guangzhou on Tuesday, where protesters hoped to make their case to provincial authorities.
With police posted at government buildings, tensions in Maoming eased by Wednesday. Officials kept a lid on online dissent, with photos and video of police violence deleted from social media sites, according to residents.
Maoming officials and police blamed the violence on a small group of "outlaws". Residents rejected the characterisations, which some saw as anexcuse for cracking down on dissent.
"Maoming's a small city - who gave these officials such power over us, to muffle our complaints, beat us with electric batons, fire tear gas at us?" one resident asked.
Watch: Hundreds protest against chemical plant in China's Maoming city