ENVIRONMENT

10,000 protest in Chinese city over planned coal-fired power plant

Big demonstration staged against energy project in northeastern Guangdong, home to reservoir that supplies water to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 April, 2015, 12:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 2:47pm

Around 10,000 residents of Heyuan in northeastern Guangdong took to the streets on Sunday to protest against a new coal-fired power plant, according to demonstrators.

Minor scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and members of the mainland's special police but there were no reports of injuries.

The demonstration began with thousands of people staging a peaceful sit-in outside city government offices at about 8am. Many wore surgical masks and stickers denouncing the plant.

Police dispersed the crowd at around 10am, sending the protesters into the streets, where the numbers quickly swelled to around 10,000 before noon.

The crowd marched through the downtown area, chanting "Give me back my blue sky" and "Go away power plant". Some protesters held small signs that read: "Stop feeding people with smog".

"This is not just a small fraction of people with an ulterior motive but a concrete outpouring of public opinion from the entire Heyuan public. From babies to the elderly, everyone is appealing to our government to stop polluting our sky," a woman protester said, refusing to be named.

Xinhua carried a report on the demonstration and put the number of participants in the thousands. But photos of the gathering suggested the crowd could be much bigger.

The city is home to the Xinfengjiang Reservoir, a major source of water for Hong Kong, and already has one coal-fired plant supplying electricity.

Shenzhen Energy is spending 8 billion yuan (HK$10.12 billion) to build the new plant, which will generate 11 billion kWh annually. The Shenzhen government is the major shareholder in Shenzhen Energy.

Construction was due to begin this year, according to local media.

Protesters staged another sit-in about 200 metres from the administration office around lunchtime.

Huang Jianzhong, the deputy party secretary of Heyuan, addressed the crowd in the afternoon, saying the project was only in the preliminary study stage. Another march began at 4pm that saw main roads blocked.

The city government could not be reached for comment.

Last month, residents collected more than 30,000 signatures against the project.