The government of the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming will publish an environmental impact assessment for a refinery which has been subject to mass protests, state media said on Monday, as it hopes to head off further unrest ahead of a trade fair.
An increasingly affluent urban population has begun to object to China’s policy of growth at all costs, which has fuelled the economy for three decades, with the environment emerging as a focus of concern and protests.
There have already been two large protests in Kunming against the production of paraxylene (PX), a chemical used in making fabrics and plastic bottles, at the planned plant.
Organisers have taken to the internet to call for the next protest on June 6, the same date for the first China-South Asia Expo, which senior Chinese leaders are expected to attend.
Kunming mayor Li Wenrong said the government will listen to comments and communicate with residents about their concerns over the project and repeated a pledge to cancel it if people do not want it, the official People’s Daily said.
“We will soon, in accordance with procedure, release the environmental impact assessment report to the public,” the paper quoted Li as saying. “There is nothing which needs to be covered up.”
The government last week issued an order banning any protests during the period of the trade fair, due to run from June 6-10.
Li urged people not to take to the streets.
“While a small number of people have [strong] opinions about the PX project and different points of view, everyone must ... maintain the harmonious and stable environment and nothing should happen to interfere with this,” he said.
Last November, the eastern city of Ningbo suspended a petrochemical project after days of street protests. Big protests also forced the suspension of a PX plant in the northeastern city of Dalian the year before.
More recently, heavy pollution that has blanketed cities including the capital Beijing and scandals over food have added to the sense of unease.
China National Petroleum, the country’s largest oil and gas producer and supplier, announced in February that the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) had approved the refinery project at Anning, just outside Kunming.
The refinery would produce petrol, diesel, and other chemicals and fertilisers as well as PX, the company said in its submission to the NDRC.
It is being built to handle oil coming in from a strategically important pipeline being built across Myanmar that is due to open this year. State media however have quoted company officials as saying the refinery would not produce PX.