01/27/2007, 00.00
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Polluting factory operates despite closure orders: protesters arrested

In southern Guangzi, a paper mill was being run despite orders to close for polluting. Rice grown in the area is black and the air is foul. Farmers protest and police arrest them in the night.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Farmers protest against a paper mill that is poisoning their crops and polluting their drinking water and the police arrest them. This is what happened in the impoverished southern region of Guangxi, last January 12th, but the news was reported only yesterday.
Police went to the homes of protesters in the night and took them away, under charges of having obstructed public duties. Instead, according to a local resident, Li Youngjin, residents had only used legal methods to protest against the paper mill, filing numerous petitions and complaints with the county and regional governments against the pollution caused by the factory since it began operating 6 years ago.
Li explains that "our rice is black. Our fruit is either black or white. Rice and fruit are our main crops. We are surrounded by dirty, foul-smelling air."
The day prior to the arrests, he adds, "a local official told residents that there would be a meeting with managers of the Zhongtaifu mill for discussions aimed at finding a solution."
Chen Jian, an environment protection official in regional capital Nanning said that the mill had been ordered closed, but continues to operate. "There is a serious pollution problem with the Zhongtaifu paper factory," Chen said. "If that is the case, the government is obliged to take measures to close down that factory." Chen said his bureau was petitioning the government of Wuzhou, whose administrative region includes Botang, to enforce the closure order.
Many industries in China are set up in farming areas where land is cheap, but many release untreated, heavily polluted wastewater and fumes into the countryside. Local governments look favourably on these factories which increase local productive capacity and provide considerable tax revenue, and often neglect the interests of farmers.
The central government is currently concerning itself with curbing pollution and clearing up its worst effects, such as the poisoning of lacks and rivers, but faces resistance from local governments and many enterprises that continue production despite orders to close. (PB)
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