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Angry citizens

Protest in Qidong

by Laura Hinze
Protestors toppling a police car in Qidong in July

Protestors toppling a police car in Qidong in July

On 28 July, some 5000 people rallied against plans for an industrial project in Qidong, a coastal town in the Shanghai agglomeration. A new drainpipe was supposed to channel effluents from a Japanese-owned paper mill into the local harbour. By Laura Hinze

The daily load would allegedly have been up to 150,000 tons. Demonstrators expressed concern for drinking water supply and the fishing industry, which employs many people.

The protesting people were quite assertive. A photographer from the news agency AFP said participants stormed a government building and carried out boxes with cigarettes and liquor. Such goods are often accepted as bribes by corrupt officials. There were clashes with the police too.

According to media reports, the demonstration dispersed after the government promised to scrap the drainpipe plans. The next day, 2000 police officers patrolled the town, preventing further protests. What will become of the paper mill was not said. The company insists it is compliant with China’s environmental legislation. Economic growth, however, has often caused severe environmental damage in China in recent years.
Accordingly, ecologically motivated protests have become quite common even though the authoritarian regime tries to stifle open dissent and punishes dissidents with long prison sentences. In early July, there were reports of rallies in Sichuan Province where thousands opposed plans for a copper smelter because they were worried about air and ground water contamination. The project was cancelled. China’s Communist Party is trying to keep everything under control, but it is apparently prepared
to give into protests before events escalate and become unmanageable.

Laura Hinze