Villagers angry at losing Jiangmen uranium plant deal

Residents who stood to gain from relocation, compensation for processing plant project angry that protesters in Jiangmen won the day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 6:17am

Far from the jubilant crowds in downtown Jiangmen, the decision to cancel a proposed uranium-processing plant was met with dismay in the remote farming village of Lianzhu.

Villagers there, who were slated to be compensated and relocated to make way for the 37 billion yuan (HK$46.4 billion) facility, suddenly found their hopes for a better life dashed.

"I can't believe that we have had nothing again," one elderly villager told the Sunday Morning Post yesterday. "I almost got all the [relocation] money, but now we have to hand all of it back."

Just a week ago, villagers had expressed optimism over the proposed China National Nuclear Corporation project. Some 160 villages from 48 households had signed an agreement to participate in the local government's relocation plan.

The 229-hectare plant would have affected 13 villages, with Lianzhu providing most of the key land.

Apart from an up-front payment of 220,000 yuan to be distributed among the families, villagers were expected to receive construction subsidies and farmland compensation and be moved to a new site the same size as their current village near their town government headquarters.

"It's a good deal for all the villagers," said an official from Zhishan town, which overseas the village. "The compensation plan had been made between the county government and 12 representatives for the 160 villagers."

Many villagers said they could not understand the opposition from protesters in Jiangmen, about 30 kilometres away. Some thought the protesters were exaggerating the risks.

"[They] do not understand the details of the uranium-processing plant very well," one villager said.

"It's a pity that our government was forced to give up such a good project."

In Jiangmen, however, protesters said the villagers were too focused on the compensation to see the downside. "They are just farmers; they do not have enough knowledge and awareness about nuclear crises," said Wu Bocheng, who took part in Friday's protest rallies.

"The villagers just care about how much compensation they will receive. They don't have any long-term planning and social responsibilities, but we do."

However, Tsai Wen-chin, a Taiwanese businessman who signed a 50-year lease with the local government for 20 hectares of Lianzhu farmland in 1998, was indifferent about the outcome.

"My lease still has 35 years and I can keep on growing fruit trees, raise pigs and fish."

In April, the Jiangmen municipal government announced an industrial zone was set up in Heshan, without providing details. Residents only realised the project's nature on July 4, after the authorities posted a 10-day public consultation statement.


Climbdown on Jiangmen plant is not the first

May 2013 Construction of an oil refinery and paraxylene (PX) plant in Anning, Yunnan cancelled after protests in nearby Kunming.

May 2013 Construction of a lithium battery factory cancelled after hundreds of residents held three protests in Songjiang, Shanghai.

May 2013 Authorities thwart Chengdu protest against PX project in Pengzhou, Sichuan.

October 2012 Construction of a 56 billion yuan oil and petrochemical complex suspended in Ningbo after thousands of residents clash with police.

July 2012 Construction of an industrial waste pipeline scrapped in Qidong, Juangsu after protesters ransack local government headquarters.

August 2011 Top local officials pledge to shut and relocate Fujia Petrochemical's plant in Dalian , Liaoning after tens of thousands of residents take to the streets. The plant reopens in 2012.

June 2007 A PX plant is relocated after protests in Xiamen, Fujian.