Thousands of residents in the coastal town of Yinggehai, Hainan, demonstrated at the weekend against plans to build a large power plant nearby, with dozens injured and more than 100 detained by police, according to witnesses.
Several hundred set off for the tourist resort of Sanya on Friday and Saturday and blocked a bridge next to the municipal government offices, after local officials refused to see them.
In Yinggehai, more than 1,000 armed police and dozens of police vehicles arrived in the town Friday night. Officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds, who stormed government buildings and fought back using bricks and stones, witnesses said.
The protest was the latest since January against government plans to build a coal-fired power plant on the town's doorstep.
As well as surrounding Yinggehai's government office on Friday and Saturday, demonstrators also blocked some central areas in Sanya, one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, known for its beaches and expensive property.
The demonstrations are among the latest featuring mainland residents standing up to oppose feared or actual environmental pollution. In July, tens of thousands of people in Shifang, Sichuan, clashed with police, resulting in plans for a proposed copper plant being scrapped.
A smaller demonstration also broke out yesterday in Zhenhai District, Ningbo city as about 100 people blocked a major road to protest against the building of a chemical plant. No violence was reported.
Tang Fei, a Yinggehai native, said: "Yinggehai is a small place, with only 20,000 people, but we try our best to protect our environment. Most villagers from [the villages of] Heishan and Fengtang, where the plant would be built, went to Sanya to call on the municipal government to hear their concerns.
"A large number of students who study outside Yinggehai came back to the town on Friday and joined the protests. It's hard to know how many people exactly have been detained."
Tang said the heavy security presence remained yesterday, and street lights had been turned off last night to try to keep people in their homes. Security officers were also seen entering schools and homes, as well as guarding local government offices and main roads, Tang said.
A Yinggehai government official who refused to give her name said yesterday that the riot had been brought under control, while the Sanya government refused to comment.
Mainland media have remained silent on the protests, and internet censors have blocked searches for "Yinggehai" on microblogs.