Garbage Plants Draw Fresh Ire in China's Guangdong

2014-06-18
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Chinese police at the scene of protests against a waste disposal plant by residents of Fairview Peninsula in Guangdong's Panyu city, June 18, 2014.
Photo courtesy of a homeowner.

Hundreds of homeowners in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong clashed with local authorities on Wednesday in protest over a waste disposal plant currently under construction in their residential compound.

The clashes, which left several people injured and a number detained, occurred after nearly 1,000 residents of up-market housing compound Fairview Peninsula in Guangdong's Panyu city gathered at the site, blocking traffic in and out of the site for several hours, protesters said.

"The protesters went to two separate places: one to hang banners on the Nanpu Bridge, and the other to a place near the kindergarten in our compound, to block construction traffic," a protester and local resident surnamed He told RFA.

She said clashes broke out between protesters, police, and a large group of "unidentified men."

"A lot of people showed up in plainclothes, but we didn't know who they were," He said. "One girl was lying on the ground by the flower-beds, while several others had blood on their heads."

She said some of the injured residents had been taken to hospital for treatment, while others were detained.

"Some of the homeowners were taken away by police," she said, estimating the number of those detained at "around 10."

The protests were triggered after work began last week on a new waste compression facility within their residential compound, she said.

'Duped'


Local residents are angry that plans to develop the waste facility went ahead without consultation and without their knowledge.

"We didn't know anything about this until they began work on it, when we saw they had flattened that whole area," He said. "We feel as though we've been duped, and that this isn't good ... for our kids' health."

"That's why the homeowners are standing up for their rights," she added.

The facility is less than 20 meters from the kindergarten, and local families fear their young children could suffer from daily, long-term exposure to pollutants from garbage.

A second protester surnamed Wei said local residents had also staged a protest at the sales offices for the compound on Saturday.

"When those protests had no effect, we organized a group of several hundred people to get together, in the hope of getting the attention of the government and the media," Wei said.

"Of course we are worried, because trash is sure to have an impact on the air quality, and it's just 10-20 meters away from people's homes,"
she said.

"How is that OK? The smell is bad enough from the garbage bins, let alone a big garbage processing center like that.. .that's bound to stink, whatever measures they take."

'Really bad smell'


The Panyu clashes follow a similar protest in Shenzhen on Sunday, during which police clashed with local residents and detained several people, residents said.

Residents of the Vanke No. 5 Garden in Shenzhen's Bantian district gathered in protest to call on the government to close a landfill site near their homes.

"That landfill has gotten pretty notorious recently; it's by the Qingshui river, and the local residents have been complaining about it," a protester surnamed Luo told RFA.

"It's very close to us, about 1.5 kilometers away, and the smell is really bad when it rains," he said.

"A lot of the residents and homeowners in phases 5, 6, 7, and 8 [of the project] have complained to the government, and they are still in talks about it."

He said the site had been built three years ago, with an expected life of 10 years.

"It really affects us, both in terms of quality of life and our businesses," Luo said. "This year, we signed a petition and took it to the municipal government in protest."

Protesters block road

Photos posted to social media sites by participants showed large numbers of people wearing blue facial masks and blocking the road outside the Shenzhen municipal branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"Sort out the stink, sort out this town!" read one banner carried by protesters, while a number of people carried placards saying: "We don't want to breathe poison!" and "Give me back my right to breathe!"

A second Vanke No. 5 Garden resident surnamed Zhou said campaigners had placed stickers and handbills all across the compound in protest at the landfill site.

"There is a smell," Zhou said. "It's the smell of garbage being handled ... It really stinks, especially recently."

"The people round about kick up a fuss daily," he said.

An official who answered the phone at the municipal party headquarters declined to comment, referring enquiries to the complaints department.

However, the number supplied returned an error message.

An employee who answered the phone at the Shenzhen municipal government hotline also declined to comment.

"We can't offer any comment ourselves; we can only point to to the relevant department," the employee said.

Fast-growing movement

More than three decades of breakneck economic growth have left Guangdong with a seriously degraded environment, causing a fast-maturing environmental movement to emerge among the region's middle classes and farming communities alike.

Previous attempts to build similar plants elsewhere in the province have drawn widespread criticism over local government access to the huge potential profits linked to waste-disposal projects.

Last August, authorities in Guangdong's Puzhai township said they would cancel plans to build a waste-incineration plant there following angry protests and violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

And in January, more than 10,000 residents staged a protest against a planned waste incinerator power plant near their homes in Guangdong's Shantou city.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.