Cantonese Protest Incinerator

Authorities in southern China delay plans to build an incinerator amid protests.
2009-11-23
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Trash litters the street at the Guangzhou railway station, Feb. 1, 2008.
Trash litters the street at the Guangzhou railway station, Feb. 1, 2008.
AFP

HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have promised to hold off construction of a planned waste incinerator plant until environmental studies are finished, in the wake of angry protests by residents at the weekend.

Hundreds of residents remained outside government offices on Monday following much larger protests over the weekend that involved uniformed police supervising peaceful marchers carrying posters that read "Oppose the Incinerator."

Ye Zhiwen, deputy director of the Panyu district urban landscape bureau in Guangzhou, said construction wouldn't begin on the incinerator until environmental assessments of the project were approved, official media reported.

The decision followed "public feedback" on the project, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

Local residents fear the planned plant will endanger their health and the environment, while officials say Guangdong has to find some way to dispose of mountains of garbage.

Netizens organize

The protests were reported live by participants and journalists on the micro-blogging service Twitter, and followed by Chinese netizens.

"I was having something to eat and drink and I noticed that all around me people were tweeting on their cell phones," tweeted user "liutianchao," who also reported being commissioned to write a report but expected it to be censored.

"The Panyu municipal government says it will hold a meeting with local residents tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m," "liutianchao" added.

Twitter user "try2feel" reported: "There are still around 200 people outside the Guangdong provincial government building in Guangzhou."

"Some people have managed to get into the complaints office. There are more police here than ordinary people."

Meanwhile, according to Twitter user "LEMONed:" "The loudspeakers are saying that the few hundred people here should pick five representatives to go in and talk to the leaders. They are trying to throw us into chaos!"

The tweet continued: "Are Cantonese people so easily fobbed off? We immediately shouted back, with one voice: 'Why don't you choose five leaders to come out and talk to us?' This totally flummoxed the police."

Local media kept their distance from the story over the weekend, netizens said.

1,000 protesters

"I have asked a lot of my friends in Guangdong and they say they didn't know about this," tweeted a user named "yuchijian."

Social media reported that more than 1,000 protesters had gathered outside government buildings in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, to call for the resignation of deputy Party secretary Lu Zhiyi.

They said the Panyu waste incineration plant, which will handle 2,000 tons of trash a day, might endanger the health of residents like a similar incinerator built near Guangzhou's Likeng village in 2005.

"The residents don't trust the government's guarantees after reports revealed that the incidence of cancer had risen dramatically in Likeng," blogger Wen Yunchao was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Public informed late

Ye, the Guangzhou land bureau official, said the plant was originally planned to replace two small landfills at Huijiang village in the city's Panyu district.

The Panyu urban landscape authority issued a notice at the end of last month to solicit public opinion and organized a team of experts to conduct environmental assessments of the project.

Ye didn't specify when the environmental assessments would be completed.

The site for the project was first proposed in August 2006 and approved by the local land resources bureau in April.

Residents learned only in September that the project might be built in their neighborhood.

A recent opinion poll showed that nearly 92 percent of residents believed the project would seriously harm their health and the environment.

The poll, carried out by Guangdong's provincial social research and study center, said more than 97 percent opposed construction of the plant.

Three decades of breakneck economic growth have left Guangzhou with a seriously degraded environment, sparking a nascent environmental movement from the city's new middle class.

A proposed multi-billion dollar oil refinery in the ecologically rich Nansha district just downstream from Guangzhou along the Pearl River, was relocated to a less populated area in western Guangdong last year after a major public uproar.

Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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