Police disperse crowd en route to environmental protest in northeastern China

Protesters worried about pollution from a planned factory in Heilongjiang province find their route to a demonstration blocked by police

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 8:26am

Police in riot gear, including some with dogs, were deployed to disperse protesters in a city near China’s border with Russia after plans for an aluminium plant sparked widespread environmental concerns.

Dozens of residents in Daqing, Heilongjiang province were arrested on Thursday on their way to city hall, according to residents.

The protesters were upset about plans by conglomerate China Zhongwang to build an aluminium processing plant. The ­local government said on Wednesday that the project had been suspended, but some city residents were unconvinced by that claim.

Hundreds of protesters tried to rally at city hall but found all the routes blocked by police.

Footage of police taking away protesters, including several elderly ones, was widely circulated on social media. In one clip, a woman appeared to have fainted while police were implementing crowd control.

The content of the video could not be verified, and the local police department declined to comment on the matter.

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

One protester who only gave his surname, Wu, for fear of reprisals said the police were seizing both elderly people and children. He said officers formed a wall to push people out of the area.

“Some protesters were grandpas and grandmas,” he said, “But they were roughly snatched off the streets by the police to deter other protesters.”

A resident surnamed Liu organised a major protest in Daqing on Tuesday, which about 5,000 people attended.

He said he wore a mask for yesterday’s aborted protest because he had been called to a police station on Tuesday and given a verbal warning.

“I feel like the situation is escalating really fast. People are getting scared around here,” he said,

“We are just feeling hopeless at the moment.” He said another rally had not been planned.

Amanda Xu, a spokeswoman from Zhongwang in Hong Kong, said on Wednesday that work had not yet begun at the plant site.