03/31/2014, 00.00
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Guangdong, 1,000 people demonstrate against the construction of a chemical plant

The population of Maoming took to the streets to stop an industry of aromatic hydrocarbon, seen as a threat to the environment already plagued by rampant pollution. Meanwhile, also in the southern province, the village of Wukan returns to the polls to elect their leaders: but the government has arrested all possible opponents.

Guangzhou ( AsiaNews) - The population of Maoming, in the rich southern province of Guangdong, has taken to the streets to protest the construction of a chemical plant that is likely to worsen the environmental situation and the rate of local pollution. The protesters met in the morning of March 30, outside the local Communist Party offices and marched through the streets of the city to ask them to stop the project.  From a little less than two hundred, during the march the group arrived at about 1,000 people.

The protest was peaceful even though, according to the government, "some troublemakers" threw stones and water bottles that have damaged some public properties. The pictures posted on social networking site Weibo showed an overturned car (perhaps a police van) and some demonstrators waving their fists. It is unclear whether or not the government will stop the factory, which is expected to produce aromatic hydrocarbon. In any case, the authorities have arrested several protesters.

Protests are clearly the best way that the people have to make sure their voice is heard. In May of 2013, the population of Kunming (Yunnan Province) took to the streets against the construction of a refinery. Although the project has not been stopped, the government has promised to listen to the demands of the protesters and convoked round table talks between residents and the plant managers.

In 2011, in Dalian thousands of protesters demonstrated against a chemical factory, forcing the authorities to impose a heavy fine on an oil company that has polluted the Shandong. Instead the case of Wukan (Guangdong) exploded in September 2011, resulting for the first time resulted in a sort of people's victory over the central power.  In recent years, this has prompted several leaders of villages and towns to seek mediation with the population instead of repression.

In fact, the Wukan experiment is once again in the spotlight: after a series of arrests against former leaders elected by the people (and not by the Party) today the village went to the polls . According to residents, it is little more than a farce "because the government wants nothing more than to regain control of Wukan and has eliminated any possible opposition ahead of the vote".

Data confirms this popular dissatisfaction: For the first time in 13 years in January 2013 the Chinese National Statistics Bureau released figures for the Gini coefficient - the factor that indicates the pay gap and the gap between rich and poor - considered one of the most sensitive indicators from the political point of view. For 2012, the figure stood at 0.474: even if it represents a drop compared to 0.491 in 2008, it should be emphasized, however, that it exceeds the threshold of 0.4 that - analysts say - is the boundary that leads to social conflicts. It must be said that the University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu (Sichuan) has calculated the Gini coefficient at 0.6.

Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Qinghua University in Beijing, has also updated the information on public protests: in 2010 there were about 180 thousand demonstrations, almost 500 per day, and double the 2006 figures . The Party has announced its intention to "reduce" these numbers, but what remains unclear is how it intends to go about this.


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