08/18/2009, 00.00
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Riots and protests in a China more polluted by the day

Clashes between police and citizens in Shaanxi, protesting against a polluting factory. The authorities continue to sacrifice the rights of citizens in the name of development. Meanwhile, the authors of a major pollution scandal are sentenced to prison for the first time.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 1,000 residents of Fengxiang (Shaanxi) clashed with police yesterday in front of the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting foundry, accused of having poisoned more than 600 children. Meanwhile in the village Honghua near Nansha, where the government had expropriated land from residents to build a major chemical plant, now say it will not go ahead because of pollution concerns but fail to return the lands or pay the required compensation. Boom time China and its globally lauded development system, is revealing itself to be disastrous for the population.

In Fengxiang people demonstrated for three days in a peaceful manner, blocking roads around the foundry and requesting the intervention of the authorities, without any results. Yesterday they tried to enter the factory and the authorities did intervene with police, triggering the clashes.

In recent weeks a constant stream of scandals have exploded about polluting factories that poisoned the blood of residents, especially children. In the village of Liuyang (Hunan), people protested after more than 500 residents were poisoned by heavy metals used by the company and then thrown into water and soil.

In Honghua a major oil refinery, a consortium of 9 billion dollars between Chinese giant Sinopec and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation multinational, was planned to produce 15 million tonnes of petrol and 800 thousand tons of ethylene annually. The plant would also have given employment to more than half of the inhabitants of Honghua. The authorities had already expropriated lands and homes of peasants, but now have decided to move the plant to Donghae (Zhanjiang), because too pollutant.

Residents were left without work and without money: the lands were expropriated two years ago, but they have received only a portion of the promised compensation, 700 yuan each per month, in short the bank interest of 63 million yuan allocated for compensation. And still no mention has been made of returning their lands.

Throughout the country the needs of continued economic development have often prevailed over those of the population, who are often without the means to protect themselves and are forced to take to the streets to be heard.

In this situation, the state agency Xinhua gave wide coverage to the first major conviction for pollution: a court in Yancheng (Jiangsu) condemned Wenbiao Hu and Ding Yuesheng to 11 and 6 years' imprisonment, as directors of the chemical plant Biaoxin that poured hydro benzene and phenol waste, highly toxic and carcinogenic, into a river over a 16 month period causing serious pollution. The media point out that this is the first sentence of this type: in general those responsible for pollution get away with a fine. Analysts point out that no one is asking how this could happen without the knowledge of the controlling authorities.

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