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Central & South Asia
China cancels project after protests
Officials buckle under pressure from protest against industrial waste pipeline project in Qidong province.
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2012 21:20
The outpouring of public anger is emblematic of the rising discontent facing Chinese leaders [Reuters]

Hundreds of demonstrators protesting against alleged pollution from a paper factory in eastern China's Jiangsu province have clashed with police, forcing authorities to drop plans for a water-discharge project.

The Qidong government announced on its website on Saturday that plans to build the water-discharge project had been scrapped.

The official Xinhua News Agency said thousands of residents took to the streets but dispersed after the government announcement.

The water-discharge project was to be part of a paper-making factory proposed by a Japanese company, Oji Paper.

The company denied it was causing pollution and said closing the 110km pipeline would not affect operations at the plant, located in Nantong, Jiji Press reported.

Later on Saturday, hundreds of police, some in riot gear, arrived in the coastal town just north of Shanghai and took up positions outside the offices.

The protesters occupied a government office, destroying computers and overturning cars in a violent protest against an industrial waste pipeline they said would poison their coastal waters.

"If the government really wanted to stop this project, they should have done it right from the beginning. At this point they are too late."

- Xi Feng, protester

The demonstration was the latest in a string of protests sparked by fears of environmental degradation and highlights the social tensions the government in Beijing faces as it approaches a leadership transition this year.

About 1,000 protesters marched through the coastal city, shouting slogans against the planned pipeline that would have emptied waste from a paper factory in a nearby town into the sea.

The Reuters news agency witnessed five cars and one minibus being overturned. Over 1,000 police - some paramilitary - guarded the city government office compound in lines.

At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten enough to make them bleed.

Demonstrators had rejected the government's earlier stand that waste from the factory would not pollute the coastal waters.

"The government says the waste will not pollute the sea, but if that's true, then why don't they dump it into Yangtze River?" said Lu Shuai, a 25-year-old protester who works in logistics.

The crowds dispersed after local authorities used television, radio, the internet and text message to announce that the waste water pipeline project at the mill, which belongs to Japanese company Oji Paper, would be "permanently
cancelled".

Unfettered industrial expansion

On Friday, in an effort to stave off the protest, the Qidong city government announced it would suspend the project for further research, but that did not deter the protesters.

Chinese leaders are struggling to balance growth with rising public anger over environmental threats [Reuters]

Protests against environmental degradation have increased in China, where three decades of rapid and unfettered industrial expansion have taken their toll.

The sewage pipe from the paper mill would have discharged into the sea in the port of Lusi, one of four fishing harbours in Qidong, one protester, who for safety reasons only gave her name as Qin, told the AFP news agency.

Discharges were set to climb to 150,000 tonnes of sewage a day when the mill was fully operational, according to residents quoted on Friday by the state-run Global Times newspaper. Construction on the mill started in 2007.

Searches, including "Qidong", were blocked on Saturday on Sina Weibo, which has more than 250 million subscribers.

The move to close the paper mill's sewage pipeline comes after Chinese authorities this month scrapped plans to build a metals plant in the southwest province of Sichuan following violent protests by local residents concerned about the planned factory's environmental impact.

The Chinese government warned on Friday that security would be tightened throughout the country ahead of a major Communist Party Congress this autumn, which should see a new generation of leaders take over the reins of power.

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