10/30/2012, 00.00
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Ningbo: 51 detained during anti-pollution protests

Residents take to the streets to oppose the expansion of a petrochemical plant accused of polluting the area. The authorities said they would stop the project but people remain suspicious.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Police in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, detained 51 people who took part in protests (pictured) that drew thousands of people for days against a plan to expand the Sinopec plant in Zhenhai, one of the city's most polluted districts.

Those detained are accused of stone throwing and overthrowing cars, the Ningbo Daily reported. Thirteen of them were deemed criminal suspects and could face prosecution.

A man was detained for carrying a knife, and a woman was arrested for spreading false rumours that a student had died in clashes with police.

The protest was sparked by last month's announcement by Sinopec that it was investing 55.9 billion yuan (US$ 8.9 billion) to expand the local oil and petrochemical complex.

Residents took to the streets, accusing the authorities of holding back information about the additional pollution the plant will generated at the end of the planned expansion.

The main concern is the production of p-Xilene (Px), a hydrocarbon used in the production of paints and plastic that is also highly toxic.

The decision by the authorities to stop the project has calmed the situation, but many people are concerned that the government might reintroduce it later.

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