The smelter was shut down in August of last year after hundreds of angry parents from the villages of Madaokou, Gaozuitou and Sunjianantou (Fengxiang County) laid siege to it, concerned about its impact on their children’s health. Armed police were sent in to quell the protest; a wall and a dozen vehicles were damaged.
In his government work report to the National People’s Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged yesterday to strengthen measures against polluters and crack down on heavy metal poisoning.
Pollution is a major cause of social unrest in China. Each year, tens of thousands of incidents of mass protest occur as a result of extensive industrial pollution and complacent authorities.
Yang Tagu, who lives in Sunjianantou, told the South China Morning Post that despite massive protests the local government has simply ignored the concerns of people like himself and his neighbours.
He is also upset by the authorities who rely on certain data to claim that pollution is within tolerable levels, when in fact other data shows otherwise.
In the meantime, residents are hard pressed just surviving because they cannot earn a living from farming, since the land is contaminated, and cannot find new employment because there are no other job opportunities in the area. They cannot even leave the place because of housing shortages elsewhere.
Residents from the three affected villages did get a 260 yuan (US$ 40) special allowance last month, Yang said. However, they “have no idea where the money transferred to our accounts” came from, “whether it is offered by the local administration or Dongling, or someone else,” he said. “One thing is for sure, they want us to remain silent when the factory resumes production this month.”
Whenever residents requested action by local authorities, they consistently go the silent treatment.
Some residents have taken the matter to the courts and sued the company for damages suffered by their children, but their application was turned down, ostensibly for “lack of evidence”.