Shenzhen becomes third city to join protests over Maoming chemical plant

Demonstrations against Maoming chemical plant spread to third city, as authorities admit police injured protesters but deny 15 were killed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 12:19pm

Demonstrations against a planned chemical plant in the Guangdong city of Maoming have spread to Shenzhen.

About 20 protesters braved heavy rains to stage a rally in Shenzhen yesterday, demanding authorities scrap the plan to build a 3.5 billion yuan (HK$4.4 billion) paraxylene (PX) plant.

A similar protest, joined by about 200 people, was staged in Guangzhou on Tuesday.

PX is a chemical essential to the process of manufacturing plastic bottles and polyester clothing, but can be dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Watch: Hundreds protest against chemical plant in China's Maoming city

At about 10am the protesters, all originally from Maoming but now living in Shenzhen, gathered in front of the Grand Theatre and marched to neighbouring Deng Xiaoping Portrait Square.

Many wore masks and held signs saying "PX project get out" and "No PX in Maoming".

They also demanded the provincial government release people detained by armed police during the first protests in Maoming on Sunday and that it apologise to the public.

The Shenzhen protest lasted only 10 minutes before the demonstrators were taken away by police.

The Maoming authorities held a second press conference yesterday, and said public opinion would be heeded when decisions on the future of the project are made.

Zhou Peizhou, a deputy public security director in Maoming, admitted police officers had "accidentally injured" protesters in scuffles during the first protests on Sunday. More than 1,000 people took part in the demonstrations.

Zhou denied reports that 15 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in clashes.

Fifteen people, including four police, have been treated in hospital for injuries and as of yesterday all were in a stable condition.

Police have so far detained 18 protesters accused of disturbing social order, said Zhou.

Residents fear the PX plant, planned at a petrochemical complex run by the local government and the state-run oil giant Sinopec in Maoming, will bring environmental and health risks.

They also allege local people are unlikely to gain any economic benefit from the plant given the corrupt record of Maoming's government.

Several hundred Maoming residents staged another protest outside the city's government headquarters yesterday afternoon.

"There is no timetable yet for the PX project. We won't kick off construction without reaching a consensus among residents," deputy mayor Luo Yueliang said at the news conference. He emphasised that the scheme would boost Maoming's economy.

Some residents said they did not believe the authorities' assurances that protesters' voices would be heard.

"If they are telling the truth, why has not a single official dared to come out to talk to us face to face?" said a Maoming resident who was at the demonstration yesterday.

Messages on the internet called on people in Shenzhen to join another rally today near the Luohu customs checkpoint bordering Hong Kong.

Residents in Maoming and Guangzhou were also planning protests in the two cities over the weekend, the Global Times reported yesterday.