Chinese town residents clash with riot police in protests over incinerator
- Locals in the township in Liaoning said they had been kept in the dark until complaints started circulating on social media.
- Witnesses say riot police manhandled protesters and forced them to sign a promise not to stage further demonstrations against the plan.
Thousands of residents in a township in northeast China clashed with riot police this week over government plans to build an incinerator.
Chanting slogans such as “incinerator get out of Tengao township” and “safeguard my home”, hundreds and then thousands of residents of the village in Liaoning province took to the streets for several days.
Locals said the protests reached their height on Wednesday when riot police were called in and witnesses said they had seen protesters being manhandled by officers armed with riot shields and batons.
They also said protesters had been taken away on a coach and had promised in writing not to protest again before being released.
Many Tengao residents said they had first learned of the plans when comments started circulating on social media a week ago, taking them by surprise.
The plant will be built on an industrial zone in the township just a kilometre or two away from residential areas.
Although there should be a formal consultation before permission is granted, residents say the authorities have yet to comment publicly on the plans or hold the consultation.
“I live about one kilometre from the village and I have never heard of the project. This is outrageous!” said a township resident who identified herself with family name Li and runs a beauty parlour in the township.
“We protested in the township centre for a week. We blocked the highway exit. Parents didn’t let their children go to school.
“We just wanted officials high up to hear our voice. We are fine with building an incinerator, but not so close to our homes.”
Such protests have increased in China in recent years fuelled by the fear of the health risks posed by industrial projects and distrust of local government.
The household waste incinerator and power plant will have three disposal lines with daily capacity of 1,500 tones of rubbish, according to a statement on the website of Sanfeng Environment, whose Anshan branch is responsible for the project.
The plant is expected to start operating in 2020.
The website also said that an environmental assessment report had concluded that the location of the site was at a safe distance from sensitive spots such as residential areas.
A 28-year-old woman who has a four-year-old daughter said she had spent her parents’ life savings of more than 200,000 yuan buying a flat opposite the site of the incinerator and was devastated by the decision to build it there.
“I am scared. We all know the talk of incinerator is safe is a lie. It’s so close to my home and school. What can I do but protest?” said the woman.
The township, which has a population of about 120,000, is now guarded with heavy police presence.
A local car dealer said that businesses near the proposed incinerator had been threatened with the loss of their business licence unless they signed a consent form for the project.
The man, identified only by his surname Guo, said people who refused to show any ID had also visited homes asking residents to sign contest forms for the project.
Guo said that if residents were not at home at the time, the mystery visitors had filled in the forms to show they had consented – which forced residents who wanted to register their opposition to find the visitors and correct the form.
A woman at the Anshan publicity department of Anshan told the South China Morning Post that the municipality was “actively dealing with it” without elaboration. As of Friday afternoon it had yet to respond to a request for a formal interview.