Kunming, hundreds of people take to streets against oil refinery
Kunming (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Hundreds of people are protesting in Kunming (Yunnan) against the construction of a new refinery. Ignoring the threats of the local government, which has banned all demonstrations, the people poured into the streets front of the headquarters of the provincial government, challenging the presence of a large police cordon. The protest was held yesterday, but the news appeared in the media just this morning. So far, police have arrested one protester. The protest started at 14.00 and lasted for several hours, until the authorities opened a mediation.
This is the second time that the population of Kunming has taken to the streets in protest against the local government. May 4th in thousands of people blocked the city to ask for the cancellation of the project which involves the construction of an oil refinery about 30 km from the city, in the town of Anning. The plant owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation will produce more than 10 million tons of refined material annually, releasing dangerous carcinogenic "paraxylene" hydrocarbons into the air. The residents also object to the huge water consumption of the massive project, which would increase the drought that has hit the province for several years. In recent months, the authorities in Kunming have tried to convince the population of the limited impact of the plant, but they refused to publish reports of its environmental impact by invoking state secrecy.
After yesterday's protest, Li Wenrong, mayor of the city, promised to improve the government's transparency and to listen to the demands of the public, opening up a website to raise questions. The mayor said that the project also depends on the reactions of public opinion, but rejected the idea of some protesters to hold a referendum. "In our country - he explains - there is no precedent of voting, so it is very unlikely that it will ever be authorized." Li has scheduled a meeting with city representatives on 22 May, but said he will not respond to questions about the cancellation of the project.
Chinese people and civil society are increasingly rebelling against the pollution that is ravaging the country. People exchange information especially through the internet and social networks. 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. The case of Wukan (Guangdong) exploded in September 2011, which saw for the first time a sort of victory of the population over the central power, which in recent years has prompted several leaders of villages and towns to seek mediation with the people instead of repression .