Residents Vow To Fight Power Plant

Chinese officials are moving a coal-fired power plant back to its original site in Hainan, residents say.

2012-07-31
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Authorities in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan have renewed plans to build a controversial coal-fired power station on the island's coast, sparking renewed clashes with local residents and a vow to continue the campaign to have the project canceled.

The plant was to have been originally set up in Hainan's Yinggehai township but met with fierce opposition from local residents, who clashed with police on a number of occasions. The planned site then moved to Foluo and Huangliu townships in the same county, meeting with similar resistance there earlier this year.

"Now the authorities want to bring the coal-fired power station back to Yinggehai township," said a Yinggehai resident surnamed Pan.

He said local government officials had been visiting Yinggehai in recent days, going from house to house doing "ideological work" with the local people in an attempt to minimize opposition to the national-level key infrastructure project.

"They are talking about providing basic welfare payments to the villagers, social security and so on," Pan said. "They are trying to trick the villagers into supporting the power plant project."

"The villagers think they are trying it on, and the majority won't accept it."

Fighting the plans

Residents of Yinggehai vowed this week to continue to fight the plans "to the death," in order to protect their hometown.

"Our resolve is unwavering," Pan said. "We suspect the authorities have already taken the decision to build the power plant here."

He said the likelihood was that the local government would try to move forward with the project ahead of a crucial meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party later in the year.

"According to what we've been hearing, they will try to implement it before the 18th Party Congress," Pan said. "But we will never let this power plant be built."

"If the government tries to make any move towards it, we will rise up and fight to the end," he said.

Following initial clashes with Yinggehai residents earlier in the year, the authorities tried to shift the plant's location to Foluo township, where they also met with strong resistance.

Moving on to Huangliu, officials threw a security cordon around the 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 if the plant was built there, residents said in April.

Stone monument

Yinggehai residents on Sunday placed a monument to Yinggehai township at the entrance to the town, in an act of protest and defiance that was attended by large numbers of villagers and police alike.

A resident surnamed Wu said residents had bought a large piece of stone with their own money, which residents had placed at the main road into the village.

"We bought the stone a while back, and we had three characters carved on it: Yinggehai," Wu said. "We used a heavy truck to get the stone placed at the entrance to the village, and we had a dedication ceremony on Sunday morning."

"There were at least 10,000 people there, all gathered together in protest," he said. "There were a lot of police there, with leaders and officers from several police stations."

An official who answered the phone at the Yinggehai township government offices declined to comment.

Protester detained

Residents reported on the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo that one of the protest leaders, Communist Party veteran Liu Futang, was illegally detained last week.

Liu was taken away by unidentified men and has since been incommunicado, the posts said.

When protests against the plant escalated in Foluo township in April, one website reported residents had stormed a government building and smashed up offices and dormitories.

Residents 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 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.

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