Peasants Protest High-Voltage Cables

Chinese villagers clash with local authorities over planned power lines.
2012-04-16
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Several people were wounded as thousands of villagers in eastern China’s Jiangsu province clashed with police during a protest against a steel plant which will install potentially harmful high-voltage cables, according to local residents.

Some 2,000 villagers from Xiamutao in Lianyungang city’s Shiqiao township held the protest Friday, claiming that the planned cables would emit levels of radiation high enough to severely threaten their health.

The nearby Baishitou Steel Plant would suspend the 110,000 volt cables directly above Xiamutao village.

Local authorities dispatched police in riot gear to the protest, where they beat participants, according to witnesses.

According to netizen with the username “Tears of the Country Folk,” the thousands of protesters then fought back against the police, surrounding police cars and forcing township cadres to flee from the scene. The angry mob also turned over a car to use as a roadblock.

Police detained four or five protesters, the netizen wrote.

A resident of the angered village said traffic on nearby Highway 204 was brought to a standstill at one point on Friday, but that it was not caused by protesters.

“No, the villagers didn’t block the highway. The traffic was halted because too many people were crowding around the scene.”

“On [Friday] afternoon, police came to the village to detain residents,” the man said, on condition of anonymity.

“I heard the clash took place and that several villagers were wounded,” he added.

All detained protesters had since been released following a request from the villagers, he said.

Planned cables

An employee at the Shiqiao township office confirmed the plan to suspend the high-power cables in a phone call on Monday.

“Yes, the cables will hang above Xiamutao village. Just the one village,” the man said, refusing to provide further details.

A worker at the local power transmission station denied that the cables would threaten the safety of local residents.

“The distance should be safe,” the man said.

But local residents could not accept reassurances from the authorities, saying high-voltage power lines are widely known to emit harmful radiation.

June protest

In June, residents of the southern Chinese city of Loudi in Hunan province clashed with workers installing power transmission cables after complaining that the electrification project posed a threat to their lives. Several people were injured in the incident.

The Loudi Electricity Company had built a pylon to support high voltage transmission cables which at one section of the community was as close as one meter (three feet), according to residents.

The company had earlier postponed cable installation and agreed to negotiate with residents over possible resettlement and compensation, but later unilaterally decided to resume work.

The action sparked clashes between the workers and residents, some of whom were wounded. Police intervened, detaining at least one resident.

Several residents protested the police action by climbing up the pylon tower, and the company was again forced to put off installation work.

Reported by Jiang Pei for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.