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Chinese villagers clash with riot police
Protests have continued for a fourth day in southern China against the construction of a coal-fired power plant.
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2011 11:37
Police used tear gas to disperse more than 1,000 residents in the town of Haimen

Police have fired tear gas to break up demonstrations against a proposed power plant in a southern China town, where protests escalated into clashes with police this week and officials tried to calm tempers by suspending the project.

Riot police were out in force on Friday and blocked entrances to Haimen, aiming tear gas canisters at lines of protesters on motorbikes to quell the latest outbreak of unrest in the southern province of Guangdong.

Haimen, a coastal town of 120,000 people, is about 130km east of Wukan, where a 10-day siege of villagers protesting against a "land grab" ended on Wednesday after the provincial government brokered a deal.

Protests in China have become relatively common over corruption, pollution, wages and land grabs that local-level officials justify in the name of development. Chinese experts put the number of "mass incidents", as such protests are known, at about 90,000 a year in recent years.

'Factories are hazardous'

The Haimen tensions have flared for three days as residents protest against plans for another coal-fired power plant, some turning over cars and throwing bricks in clashes with police.

Riot police fired tear gas into an open space to hold back a large band of protesters on motorbikes, according to footage shown on Hong Kong’s cable TV. As smoke billowed towards the crowd, some protesters could be seen riding away quickly.

A witness earlier saw about 100 men on motorbikes gathered to watch the wall of police, armed with batons and shields, who were blocking the highway near a large, shuttered petrol station.

Haimen tensions continue to flare as residents protest against plans for another coal-fired power plant  [AFP]

"What place in the world builds two power plants within one kilometre?" said one of the Haimen residents, surnamed Cai, as he watched police lines just a few hundred metres away.

"The factories are hazardous to our health. Our fish are dying and there are so many people who’ve got cancer," he said.

"We thought of protesting outside the government office but we know none of them has listened to us. So we had no choice but to block the highway. The police beat up so many of the protesters in the past two days."

Officials said on Wednesday they would suspend construction on the project, but residents refused to back down, demanding the plan be scrapped completely.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, reporting from the Chinese capital, Beijing, said: "The point of contention is no longer about the coal fire power plant, in the sense that officials have said that they will not build the second power plant anymore, given the protests."

"But the people are still angry. They are angry and demanding that police free the people that they have been detained. They want all these people freed before they go home. This province is significant because it's a major manufacturing hub in China. It is a place that has seen a lot of wealth over the past few years. With wealth comes greater middle class.

"There are middle class expectations about standards of living. People have been demanding unpolluted air. They were unhappy that there was already one power plant.

"They say there has been terrible pollution over the past few years and it would already be multiplied if a second plant is installed," our correspondent said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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