Protests over plant will continue, residents in China’s northeast say

People in Daqing, Heilongjiang say they will keep fighting a factory they fear will cause heavy pollution, despite local government saying project is on hold

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 8:00am

Residents of a city near China’s border with Russia say they will continue their protest against an aluminium plant over pollution fears, even though the government says the project has been suspended.

The government announcement yesterday came after thousands of residents in Daqing, Heilongjiang province rallied at city hall on Tuesday, demanding that the plant being built by a subsidiary of China Zhongwang be discontinued.

On its Weibo account, the local government said the project would be put on hold to allow more time for discussion.

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But locals yesterday filmed trucks loaded with materials driving into the construction site.

Dozens of residents told the South China Morning Post they would rally again this morning against China Zhongwang.

One of them, who only gave his surname, Liu, for fear of reprisals, said about 5,000 people attended the three-hour rally on Tuesday.

He and several other organisers were taken to a police station afterwards and given a verbal warning for disrupting traffic.

“Everyone in Daqing is against this project,” he said. “The rallies are all self-started. The youngest members were only six or seven years old while the oldest ones were in their 70s.”

He said he spotted more than 50 police officers and six police cars during the rally on Tuesday.

He said protesters were chanting “reject pollution, resist Zhongwang” during the rally.

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According to public documents, the project was approved in 2015. It is expected to generate 15 billion yuan (HK$17 billion) in revenue and 30,000 jobs, giving the local government 1.5 billion yuan in yearly tax revenue.

The plant’s location is less than 1km from a major reservoir. Three major universities are also in the vicinity.

“The processing plant is said to have more than 40 chimneys, from which major pollutants will be sent into the air,” Liu said.

A spokeswoman from Zhongwang in Hong Kong, Amanda Xu, said development had not yet begun at the plant site.

“As the project is still in the midst of planning, it does not affect our current operations.

“We will decide how or if this project will proceed after taking into consideration our internal study and other factors,” she said in a statement.

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She said the plant would fabricate aluminium products and was still in an initial preparation stage, and that development plans had yet to be finalised.

Xu said the company was committed to environmental protection, and that its production processes complied with international standards.

Liu said no local news organisations had reported on the rally on Tuesday.

Local residents have also reported that many state organisations, including hospitals and schools, had been instructing people not to discuss matters regarding the rally.