China says will shut plant as thousands protest

Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:48am GMT
 

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in northeastern China on Sunday ordered a petrochemical plant to be shut down immediately after thousands of people demonstrated, demanding the relocation of the factory at the centre of a toxic spill scare, state media said.

Demonstrators in the port city of Dalian, in Liaoning province, faced down a wall of police in riot gear in front of the municipal government office. Minor scuffles broke out, although there was no report of injuries among the 12,000 protesters, state news agency Xinhua said.

The authorities also pledged to relocate the Fujia Chemical Plant, Xinhua said, citing a statement from the municipal committee of the Communist Party and the government. The report did not say where the plant is likely to move to.

State media said last Monday that residents in Dalian were forced to flee when a storm battering the northeast Chinese coast whipped up waves that burst through a dyke protecting the Fujia plant, which makes paraxylene (PX), a toxic petrochemical used in polyester.

Although authorities repaired the dyke and insisted that no spills were detected, the incident sparked panic that PX could have been released, fuelling resentment against the project. Calls on popular microblogging site Weibo and QQ, an instant messaging system, urged residents to protest on Sunday.

Protesters chanted "Fujia, get out!" Xinhua said, adding that there was no sign of the protest dispersing soon.

The outpouring of public anger is emblematic of the rising discontent facing Chinese leaders, who are obsessed with maintaining stability and struggling to balance growth with growing public anger over pollution and environmental threats.

In a rare concession, Dalian's Communist Party chief Tang Jun and mayor Li Wancai earlier on Sunday "tried to appease the crowd by promising to move the polluting project out of the city," Xinhua said.   Continued...

Residents hold a banner with Chinese characters forming a shape of a skull which reads "Get out PX (paraxylene), give us back our home, never give up" as they demonstrate against a petrochemical plant at the People's Square in Dalian, Liaoning province August 14, 2011.REUTERS/Stringer
 
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