HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have formally opened a controversial power plant, effectively ending a bitter protest from local residents two years after a deadly armed crackdown on protesting villagers.
Honghaiwan Power Station, built on land and waterways used by residents of Dongzhou village for farming and fishing, was inaugurated Jan. 8 amid a sea of security personnel with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Communist Party officials from the nearby port city of Shanwei.
“There were so many people there protecting it that the ceremony is now complete,” a woman surnamed Chen told RFA’s Mandarin service.
Other villagers were trying to get close, clashing cymbals in protest, but the cordon held, she said.
The villagers don't want to give up. We heard the clashing of gongs again this morning. But it's no use.
“The villagers don’t want to give up. We heard the clashing of gongs again this morning. But it’s no use. We can’t tell anyone about it. The authorities have cordoned off the village and they won’t let anyone in. The main crossroads is blocked too,” she said.
During the ceremony, villagers said officials beat up a woman who was protesting her husband’s detention during renewed clashes at the end of last year.
An eyewitness surnamed Huang said: “Today the wife of one of the arrested villagers went to protest at the ceremony, but she was beaten up, kicked, and wounded.”
“The woman has been hospitalized now,” Huang said.
Phone calls to the Dongzhou police station went unanswered during office hours Tuesday.
The police presence, which has been strong in Dongzhou since a renewed standoff in October, remained until the ceremony was over.
After the completion of the power station, villagers continued to blockade construction of a pylon crucial for the distribution of power to the electricity grid.
The blockade lasted only a few weeks, beginning Dec. 11, however, and was eventually dispersed by thousands of riot police using tear gas. Eight villagers were detained.
A villager surnamed Chen said the pylon was now also ready to begin operation.
Today the wife of one of the arrested villagers went to protest at the ceremony, but she was beaten up, kicked, and wounded.
The police were gradually leaving Dongzhou now that the power plant was open, she said. The authorities had stopped their propaganda broadcasts by megaphone from patrolling vehicles.
“The propaganda vehicles didn’t stop until today. There weren’t any police left by the afternoon. They had all left.”
On Dec. 6, 2005, paramilitary forces shot and killed at least three people protesting what they said was inadequate compensation for land used to build the Honghaiwan power station.
Official media reported that three people had died, saying that police fired “in alarm” after being pelted with home-made explosives.
But villagers say more than 20 people were killed when police opened fire on unarmed protesters who only fought back after the first shots were fired.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Chen Ping. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.