The Chinese government was forced to suspend a copper refinery project in southwest China following large-scale protests by residents who have claimed that the state-planned venture would harm the environment and affect the health of locals.
Thousands of residents of Shifang town in China’s southwestern Sichuan province-- a major industrial province in China known to be rich in mineral resources -- poured onto the streets over the last few days, clashing with anti-riot police, storming a government office and damaging police vehicles.
The protests in Sichuan were a reminder of public defiance shown by residents of south China’s Wukan village last year when thousands came out into the streets to protest against corruption and land-grabbing by government officials.
The state-run media on Tuesday reported on the Sichuan violence, saying thousands took to the streets in protest against the media.
"Some people gathered outside the government building and began to throw bricks and water bottles at the building, government workers and police officers from 1:30 pm, resulting in some injuries to police officers," Global Times reported the local government as saying on its official Sina Weibo account on Monday evening.
"About half an hour later, armed police started to disperse the crowd with tear gas. Thirteen protesters were injured and were sent to the hospital in a timely fashion," it said.
Reuters reported that pictures sent to it Tuesday “showed young people carrying red banners reading ‘get rid of the Hong da molybdenum plant, return beautiful new Shifang to me’. A second picture showed riot police surrounding a small group of protesters outside a post office”.
Since Sunday evening, according to state media, some local high school students and citizens began to gather outside the local government building to protest the construction of a molybdenum and copper refinery whose foundation had just been laid on Friday.
On Monday, the local government temporarily halted the project, but also threatened to punish the organisers of the protests, suggesting that some impressionable youths had been stirred up by "people with special purposes".
The local government said in a statement: “When you are poor you need to think about how to change. Getting left behind is as bad as being beaten up. We should not trust paper tigers. They are cruel and they only feed us protests. The Communist party is taking us down a road that everyone can benefit from.”