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China: protests erupt over chemical plant in Kunming

world Updated: May 04, 2013 18:42 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Residents of the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the expected production of a toxic chemical at a refinery.

Saturday's demonstration was the latest example of citizen's showing concern over environmental damage caused by polluting factories.

In this case, citizens were protesting against the production of paraxylene (PX) used to make fabric.

Agencies quoted the Chinese version of state-run Xinhua news agency admitting the protests but saying only about 200 people had gathered to demonstrate. However, according to the report, the demonstrators had "attracted nearly 1,000 onlookers."

"Give me back a beautiful Kunming. We want to survive, we want health, get PX out of Kunming", read one of the banners, seen in a photo posted on Weibo, a Reuters report said.

Weibo comments claimed that many more attended the demonstration than what was claimed by the state media. Several photographs of the protest were put up on Weibo.

China National Petroleum Corp, the country's largest oil and gas producer and supplier, announced in February that the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) had approved the refinery project at Anning, just outside Kunming, it said.

Similar protests had erupted in several other cities in recent years. In 2007, thousands of people in east China's city of Xiamen protested the construction of a PX plant over health concerns. The plant was eventually relocated.

Last year, authorities in northeast China's city of Dalian ordered a PX chemical plant to shut down after local residents took to the streets to demand that the plant be relocated over concerns regarding possible toxic chemical leaks.

Similar protests have also been reported in the cities of Chengdu, Nanjing and Qingdao.

Last October, thousands had marched through the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo demanding that the government halt the expansion of a petrochemical project which they felt would have harmed the environment.

Authorities ordered a crackdown amid reports of locals clashing with the police and damaging official vehicles during the protests which have continued through the last week.

The expansion is planned to be built in the Ningbo Petrochemical Economic and Technical Development Zone in the Zhenhai district in Zhejiang province with a combined investment of nearly 55.8 billion Yuan ($ 8.8 billion).