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Maoming Residents in China Rally Against PX Chemical Plant

Written by Owen On 1 April 2014 @ 1:25 am | 5 Comments

In Breaking News, China, Citizen Media, Development, Economics & Business, English, Environment, Governance, Law, Politics, Technology

A massive protest in Maoming, a city in affluent Guangdong province in southern China, on March 30, 2014 against a chemical project ended in scuffles with police, leaving some protesters injured. 

An amateur YouTube video showed [1] hundreds of protesters marching through a city street on Sunday in the latest case of growing environmental activism in China. Flanked by cheering and chanting onlookers, the crowd steadily moved along and then gathered in front of what appears to be the local government headquarters. Many punched their fists into the air and unfurled white banners calling for the project, which produces paraxylene (PX) – commonly used for producing plastic bottles and fiber – to be scrapped. 

In the wake of the protests, censors have moved quickly to scrub photos and posts circulating on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter. Some images captured [2]by overseas Chinese media purportedly showed a few protesters lying on the ground bleeding from the head alongside the presence of paramilitary police. Unverified photos also documented clashes between police and protesters. 

A statement released by Maoming municipal government labeled the protest “unlawful”; local government said no one died in the protest. It accused [3] a small group of protesters of hurling stones and water bottles at police and public facilities: 

2014年3月30日,市区少数市民未按照《中华人民共和国集会游行示威法》的规定,未向主管机关提出申请并获得许可,就针对拟启动的芳烃项目举行集会游行示威,属严重违法行为,严重影响了社会秩序,市政府坚决反对这种违反《中华人民共和国集会游行示威法》等法律法规的行为。针对广大市民表达的意见和诉求,市政府在项目论证的过程中,一定会落实群众的知情权、参与权,如实向国家有关部委和专家反映情况,切实做到项目建设实事求是、依法依规。茂名人关心茂名这座城市,说明我们的城市发展大有希望。

On March 30, 2014, a minority of residents flouted the Demonstration and Convention Law of the People's Republic of China and took to the street to protest against the soon-to-be-launched PX project without submitting requests to the managing agency. It has severely violated the law and seriously affected social order. The municipal government sternly opposes such acts that violate the Demonstration and Convention Law of the People's Republic of China. The municipal government will take into account public concerns and opinions, and we will ensure people's right to know and report to relevant ministries and experts in a realistic manner. We will strive to build the project in accordance with facts and regulations. The fact that Maoming citizens show great concern for the city has shown that our city's development has great hope.

The right to demonstrate is enshrined in the Chinese constitution, but authorities often clamp down on such acts of public defiance lest they embarrass or pose challenges to local governance. 

In recent years, China has seen at least of four PX protests in major cities. Some scored rare victories by successfully forcing authorities to move the projects, while others had no such impact.  

China became the largest producer and consumer of PX in 2010, registering an annual output of 7.5 million [4] tonnes last year. Caixin, a respected Chinese magazine, quoted [5] an industry executive as saying in 2011 that the country is planning to build ten more PX refineries with a yearly output of 800,000 tonnes.

On Sina Weibo, a search for “Maoming PX” yielded the standard notice that said “According to relevant laws, the results can not be displayed”. 

Some users, however, did manage to bypass the censorship, such as “MYyipee”, who posted [6] this message: 

茂名正在流血,一座正在死去的城市。由于当地执政者的盲目,喜大好功,专横跋扈,践踏民意,正在加速它的死亡, 要上PX项目本是一件荒唐,官方连连出下策甚至把学生赶回课室关起来!要知道今天是双休日啊!凭什么把无辜的学生作为筹码?作为施压的对象?此举实在证明执政者的无能与无为证明政府的冷漠

Maoming is bleeding, it's a dying city. Because of officials’ blindness and thirst for greatness and grandeur, they just act arbitrarily and trample on public opinions. They are accelerating the death of Maoming. To build a PX project is ridiculous. Authorities have resorted to tactics such as forcing students into classrooms and confining them! It's a weekend day today! What gives you the power to use innocent students as a tool and suppress them? Such acts only point to the coldness and impotence of local authorities.

Tianming Zhigao wrote [7] on Weibo: 

鄙人觉得 单一一个反对PX 不可能聚集到这么多人,可能更多的人是出于对现实不满才参与进来的吧

I think the opposition toward the PX project can't possibly draw so many people. Perhaps more people joined because they are not satisfied with the reality of life.

 Laobusi de Feiyuji gave [8] her account of the story:

PX项目环评没有通过,就逼着多个单位职工还有学生签同意书,怕人游行还让学生周末回校。不满这一做法的群众还是进行了游行,但混进了一些特地赶来捣乱的外地人与当地小混混。游行过程中警察出手打了人,激化成了群体事件,政府连忙调来了周边市县的武警开启了屠城模式,然后发公告说是聚集闹事。 

The PX project hadn't passed the environmental appraisal, then the [local government] forced staff at many local work units to sign an agreement and forced students to return to school to [prevent them] from protesting. Residents went ahead with their display of dissatisfaction with the government's actions, but non-Maoming residents and some local gangsters joined in. Police beat up certain protesters, which enraged the crowd, then local government deployed police in the neighboring county to begin encircling the town. Later, it issued a statement labelling the incident as a mob gathered to disturb social order.

Cai Shufang, a Hongkong-based human rights activist, wrote [9] on Twitter:

Residents of Maoming continued to protest against the PX project on March 31. Police have again used tear gas. On the afternoon of March 31, residents gathered in front of Maoming city government to protest. They chanted slogans like, “Rally against the PX project in a civilised manner” and “Oppose PX and return my clean land”. Many protesters are young people. Local government has deployed a large number of police, and they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd last night. 

 Vito-fun from Guangdong wrote [12]:

我相PX项目的本身是没有问题的,但让一个腐败完全没有公信的茂名政府去操作这个项目,我们都没有信心!茂名这么好一个地方,不管是地理位置、物质资源资源还是劳动力,我觉得茂名这块土地不比珠三角差多少!试问沿海城市中,还有哪个地方的政府的贪污腐败能比得上茂名和湛江?

I believe the PX project itself is fine, but to have a corrupt government with no credibility run the project, we all have no confidence! Maoming is such a good place and its location and abundance in resources and labor is practically no different than the [rich] Pearl River region! Among the coastal cities, which city has more severe corruption than Maoming and Zhanjiang?

 Echoing the same sentiment was Wuyue Sanren, a well-known online commentator. He wrote [13]:

我早说过,那个建那里、那里就抗议的劈叉化工项目与转基因一样,都不是科学问题,都是政治问题、社会问题,最终归结到政府公信力问题。还是那句话:没人不相信科学,只是很多人不相信“政府的科学”。

 

I've made this clear early on that the PX project built there and the protest is no different than genetically modified food, they are not scientific issues but rather political and social issues. It all comes down to the issue of government credibility. I'd like to say it again: It's not that people don't believe in science, it's that many people don't believe in “the science preached by the government”

Rainsir complained [14]about a lack of information: 

When I opened twitter, too much information about people against Maoming PX came into my eyes, what makes me feel horrible is I didn't know.


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URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/04/01/maoming-residents-rally-against-px-chemical-plant/

URLs in this post:

[1] showed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwZx65qoDpA

[2] captured : http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/huanjing/yf1-03312014094759.html

[3] accused: http://news.163.com/14/0331/02/9OKPITVI0001124J.html

[4] 7.5 million: http://finance.chinairn.com/News/2014/01/21/124612241.html

[5] quoted: http://economy.caixin.com/2011-10-26/100317256.html

[6] posted: http://weibo.com/1909265685/ADzcmCyuL

[7] wrote: http://weibo.com/u/1351855861

[8] gave: http://www.weibo.com/u/2013239140

[9] wrote: https://twitter.com/sfchoi8964/status/450647064108486656

[10] http://t.co/4bcgJnF8vj: http://t.co/4bcgJnF8vj

[11] March 31, 2014: https://twitter.com/sfchoi8964/statuses/450647064108486656

[12] wrote: http://www.weibo.com/512331613

[13] wrote: http://weibo.com/1477045392/ADDGQtY4P?mod=weibotime

[14] complained : https://twitter.com/Rainsir1992/status/450556126547824641

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