Seven private Henan cement factories shut down over environmental concerns have called on provincial authorities to rescind the order because they insist they met all legal requirements. The factories were among 55 private and state-run cement operations shut in February in Nanyang , Xuchang and Xinxiang because provincial authorities said they needed to 'improve the environment'. In its order, the Henan government said: 'In order to rectify the cement industry's heavy pollution of the air in some regions and to effectively improve the environmental quality, we have drafted the [closure] plan based on environmental protection laws and regulations and industry policy.' It did not specify which, if any, rules had been broken. Local officials have begun to pay more attention to the environment since the central government pledged to take ecological concerns into consideration when looking at their performance. Legal analysts say the closures point to a collision between environmental protection and the rule of law. Only one of the factories, owned by a Hong Kong-based company, has continued operating, and the closures have resulted in protests from management and tens of thousands of former workers. One factory owner, Guo Xuefu , organised a protest against the order in February but has spent the past few months in custody over production safety issues. Representatives of 12 Xuchang factories appealed to the provincial government to let them resume production, but the request was rejected. The factories asked the State Council to intervene in June but it referred the matter back to Henan in September. Seven factories, all privately operated, have continued pushing for the closures to be reversed. Factory owner Shi Jianye said the firms were asking for fair treatment and compensation for the losses they had incurred through lost production. Henan Legal Affairs Review Office director Sun Aiguo said yesterday the matter was still being reviewed. At a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday, legal experts and representatives of the seven companies said government administrators must abide by the law and fulfil their legal responsibilities. Jiang Mingan , a professor from Peking University, said the administrative laws explicitly detailed the legal conditions and procedures related to closing a firm. He said no company could be closed unless there was an agreement on compensation and Henan should agree to at least consider the companies' pleas. Fan Yafeng , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said using bureaucracy to evade responsibilities and drag out procedures was a common feature of governmental 'rule by men'. He called for a more effective way for the public to protect their rights.