Authorities in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan are apparently planning to move a proposed coal-fired power station to a different site following mass protests, but they are expected to face continued opposition, residents said Monday.
Local officials had called for a public consultation exercise at the weekend in Huangliu township in Hainan Ledong county, believed to be the new location of the plant.
The plant was to have been originally set up in Yinggehai township but met with opposition from local residents. The authorities then wanted to shift it to Foluo township where residents also resented the move.
The officials threw a security cordon around Huangliu township and tried to reassure residents there and in the nearby villages of Chilong, Xinmin, Dongkong, and Jianjie that their health and livelihoods would be unaffected by the plant, residents said.
"There are a lot of armed police here, but they haven't entered the town yet," said a Huangliu resident, identifying himself only as Xing. "They are just patrolling the area outside Huangliu township, and they haven't done anything yet."
"They are military personnel," Xi said. "There are several hundred of them."
Villagers remained defiant, however.
"If they try to enter the town, we will rise up in protest and try to block them," Xing said.
Officials were also conducting house-to-house visits, carrying out "ideological work" with families who were concerned about the plant, residents said.
Protests against the plant have escalated in recent weeks in Foluo township, with one website reporting residents had stormed a government building and smashed up offices and dormitories last week.
Villagers reported dozens of injuries from beatings and tear gas at the hands of riot police amid clashes sparked by a number of earlier arrests over opposition to the project.
A resident of Foluo's Fengtang village surnamed Li said that local people would continue to oppose the plant, however.
"It doesn't matter where they build the plant; it'll still be hard to avoid pollution of the environment," Li said. "We will all be affected."
He said government officials were visiting people's homes, trying to persuade them to accept the project.
"They keep saying that the power plant won't pollute the environment," he said.
Xing said officials had echoed this theme in a mass meeting with villagers on Saturday.
"At the meeting, the officials said that the site of the plant hadn't been finalized," he said. "They said they would listen to the opinions of the people."
"A lot of villagers are against this power plant, but the officials obviously haven't taken this on board," Li said.
"They promise they will take measures for environmental protection, and it all sounds very good, but the villagers don't believe that that's how things will turn out."
An official who answered the phone at the Hainan provincial government said the plans for the power plant had only recently been approved.
"Yes, there is a large power plant project for this township," she said. But she denied any protests linked to the project.
"I haven't received any reports of this kind," the official said.
Repeated calls to the Hainan provincial state reform and development commission, which ordered the project, went unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Protests against the plant have escalated in recent weeks, with one website reporting they had stormed a government building and smashed up offices and dormitories last week.
Meanwhile, villagers reported dozens of injuries from beatings and tear gas at the hands of riot police amid clashes sparked by a number of earlier arrests over opposition to the project.
The estimated 1.9 billion yuan (U.S. $301 million) coal-fired power plant was initially proposed in 2007, but didn't receive approval from the National Resources Bureau in Beijing until last November.
They were opposed by more than 8,000 local residents during a groundbreaking consultation exercise carried out by China Power's Hainan division in January.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.