Thousands Surround Government Building

Chinese villagers say pollution from a proposed power plant will destroy their livelihood.


Protests against a planned coal-fired power plant by villagers in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan escalated this week, with one website reporting they had stormed a government building and smashed up offices and dormitories, activists said on Tuesday.

"Yesterday it moved to Foluo township," said a village activist, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. "There were 5,000 or 6,000 people there but by the afternoon there were ... 20,000 people there, perhaps 30,000."

"Workers, farmers just returned from the fields, went there of their own accord, and some of them didn't even stop to eat," he said, adding that the protest had been sparked by the formal groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the Yinggehai coal-fired power plant, which local people fear will damage the environment.

"They all gathered outside the Foluo township government," he said. Foluo is the next-highest administrative level for residents of Yinggehai.

"The entire township ... was there; adults, old people, even children. The place was packed with people," he said, adding that villagers had yet to receive any official response to their concerns.

"No one will reply to us farmers," he said. "There hasn't been a single official [who will talk to us]."

Calls to the Foluo township government offices went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

An officer who answered the phone at the Foluo township police station declined to comment. "I'm sorry, if you want to understand the situation you will have to take it to our superiors and ask them," he said, before hanging up the phone.

The overseas-based rights website, Molihua, said no officials had come out to meet representatives of the crowd, who surrounded the government buildings for several hours on Monday.

Eventually, the protesters stormed the buildings, smashing windows, furniture, computers, and office equipment on three floors of the building, and setting off firecrackers and burning official files, the report said.

Protests unreported

The Yinggehai protests have gone unreported in China's state-run media, according to the village activist.

"Please will you report this incident, and tell the story as it really happened so the whole world knows about it," he said.

"The Chinese government says it cares about human rights, so why aren't they doing anything about it?"

Last Wednesday, villagers reported dozens of injuries from beatings and tear gas at the hands of riot police amid clashes sparked by a number of earlier arrests.

Residents of Ledong county's Yinggehai village, the closest to the power plant, said police had set up checkpoints at all entry points to the village following Wednesday's clashes between thousands of local residents and armed police, which left an estimated 60 villagers in hospital.

Villagers fear that sea pollution caused by the planned 1.9 billion yuan (U.S. $301 million) Yinggehai coal-fired power plant will wipe out their fishing businesses and farmland.

The plans were 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 groundbreaking consultation exercise carried out by China Power's Hainan division in January.

Meanwhile, activists in Hainan's two main cities, Haikou and Sanya, said they had been warned by police not to continue collecting donations to help the Yinggehai and Foluo villagers injured in the clashes.

"We have already passed on the money we collected to the injured people," said a Sanya resident surnamed He, who estimated the total number of people injured at 70-80.

"There were two who were very seriously injured, one of whom had nine broken ribs from a [police] beating ... and who is still in the Huangliu township hospital," she said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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