Residents of Lianhua County in the southeastern province of Jiangxi staged a large demonstration against a polluting chemical plant on 16 August. Their protest came just two days after more then 12,000 took the streets of Dalian, in the northeast, forcing the city authorities to close a petrochemical plant. Read our report on the Dalian protests here.
Locals involved in the Jiangxi protest organised a blockade over several months at the entrance of Longsen Industrial Company, which they blame for severe pollution of water, fish, and crops in the area. On Tuesday 16 August, the local government decided to crack down on the demonstration, sending in hundreds of armed police. Reports have surfaced of police beatings and injuries to several protesters.
The demonstration moved onto a major highway to block traffic, drawing even fiercer repression from the authorities. Unconfirmed reports say that over 2,000 people took part in the protest. Several arrests were made and an eyewitness told the Epoch Times that, “The police used electric batons to beat them, including children who were merely 12 or 13 years old.”
According to blog commentaries the company manufactures alloys, releasing several toxic substances such as chromium and lead into the local environment. This has been blamed for fish deaths and destruction of vegetation.
“Since last year, many children started to get sick. As two children died afterward, villagers were so infuriated that they blocked the entrance of the plant, and didn’t allow the plant to be operational. They have blocked the front entrance with mud and bricks since four or five months ago,” one villager told the Epoch Times.
Mass protest in Dalian on August 14 forced the government to close down Fujia petrochemical plant
The demonstrations of recent days are just the “tip of the iceberg”. There are thousands of pollution-related protests in China every year. The reasons are not hard to find, with unprecedented environmental destruction resulting from runaway and poorly supervised industrialisation, and a total lack of democratic rights and organisations through which local communities can influence these developments.
Earlier in August, a factory in Shandong province suffered a deadly chemical gas leak with 125 people, mostly workers and local residents, hospitalised. In Dalian, a tropical storm caused waves that breeched a protective dike at the Fujia petrochemical plant, raising fears of a Fukushima-like leak of “PX” – a dangerous liquid – from the plant. Three months ago, there were big protests in Yunnan province over poisonous chemical waste being dumped illegally into local waterways.
On a nationwide basis, hundreds of thousands of children in China have suffered lead poisoning, causing permanent mental and physical disabilities, according to a report by US-based Human Rights Watch. This report cited widespread repression, detention and other forms of police action to prevent victims of lead poisoning from protesting their situation and seeking compensation.
Socialists and the chinaworker.info website campaign for independent trade unions and organisations to represent workers’ and poor farmers’ interests. We call for the release of those arrested during the Lianhua County protests – to struggle to protect the environment is not a crime!
China has become a dumping ground for hazardous waste and its natural resources are being recklessly exploited without consideration for people or the effects on the environment. This is taking place only for the short-term gain of profiteering capitalists and the corrupt officials they work with. Their power over the economy must be broken if we are to prevent the destruction of water sources, land and the air we breathe!
Socialists demand fully democratic elections and control over all levels of government. We need democratic planning to shift economic resources to clean energy and safe production methods – in the interest of the people not profit.