01/14/2008, 00.00
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Thousands take to the streets to protest against high-speed train

In Shanghai the authorities want to extent a high-speed train to the city’s suburbs, but residents are concerned about radiation and the loss in real estate value. Police beat and detain peaceful demonstrators as the authorities after days of demonstrations claim they are acting out of respect for the public’s wishes.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of Shanghai residents have taken to the streets in the past few days in protest against a proposal to extend an existing magnetic levitation train (maglev) line. For the authorities their decision to build the rail link is widely accepted in the community. They have none the less chosen to use force against the 2,000 or so demonstrators who have been protesting in front of the offices of the municipal government in downtown Shanghai.

The plan is intended to extend the existing maglev line from the city’s Pudong International Airport into the city’s outskirts. The maglev line uses powerful magnets to suspend the train above a track and propel it at speeds of up to 450 kph (280 mph).

However, protests have led to the project’s suspension last year.  Residents affected by the project fear radiation, too much noise and the loss of value to their properties.

Local authorities have not announced a date for the start of construction, but on 29 December the City’s website started showing the line’s new path. The net result has been that in the past few days Shanghai has seen its largest demonstrations since April 2005 when some anti-Japanese protests took place. Braving the cold, thousands of people were in the streets shouting slogans like “Save Our Homes” and “We don’t Want the Maglev.”

Police detained hundreds of demonstrators, carrying them away in paddy wagons—hitting some; pulling others by their hair. At least two foreign journalists were arrested for “reporting illegal news” but were released an hour later.

So far city authorities have not released any statement with regards to the incident, but the Municipal Environmental Department does say on its website that the city does “take into great account the concerns” of the population and that they are open to “proposals and opinions” which can be sent via e-mail.

The aforementioned rail line is not the only one proposed. Other plans call for extending it to another airport in Shanghai’s western suburbs that serves mainly domestic flights. A separate plan would extend the line to the nearby city of Hangzhou, 160 kilometres away.

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