After days of peaceful protests during which the authorities showed no interest in their plight hundreds of residents stormed the plant on Monday, throwing stones at vehicles and clashing with police.
Local Mayor Dai Zhengshe apologised to pollution victims and said that the smelter would be shut down immediately.
However, yesterday the smelter (plant pictured yesterday) was still operating and residents say it never stopped, working at night to avoid the larger protests.
Today roads around the plant are swarming with hundreds of police to prevent residents from coming too close to the plant or journalists from interviewing them.
The local hospital is also under police surveillance. About 80 children are being treated there and police want to make sure that parents are not approached by journalists.
In recent days residents of Wenping village, in Hunan, have also been fighting a manganese-processing plant which has poisoned about a hundred children.
The residents have complained that the factory was built a year ago near a middle school, just a few hundreds of metres from their homes. Now, 80 per cent of children in the area are sick.
Here too the authorities said they would shut down the plant, which actually happened on 14 August.
China’s economy has often boomed without concern for pollution and the health problems associated with water and farmland contamination.
For the average Chinese, who have no access to effective legal protection, the only possible action is protest to get the authorities’ attention.
When they do get countrywide exposure, the authorities are increasingly unable to silence them as they did in the past.