Police Fire Tear Gas, Baton Charge Protesters in China's Zhejiang


2016-04-22
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china-incinerator-protest-zhejiang-apr20-2016.jpg Chinese protesters hold up a banner saying "We want life! No to pollution!" in protest at a planned waste incinerator in Xitangqiao township in eastern China's Zhejiang province, April 20, 2016.
Photo courtesy of a protester

Thousands of residents of the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang are waging a campaign against plans to build a trash incinerator plant near their homes, in a string of protests that have seen hundreds injured by riot police wielding batons and tear gas, local sources told RFA.

Several thousand people turned out for consecutive protests on Wednesday and Thursday in Xitangqiao township near Zhejiang's Jiaxing city, only to be met by ranks of police with shields and wielding batons, they said.

"There were riot police and some regular police as well ... They used a lot of force," a Xitangqiao resident surnamed Hu told RFA.

People were injured, and they were detaining people, yes, including an old lady and young people; they were all detained regardless, dragged into police vehicles," Hu said.

"My brother was beaten by police batons until he was nearly unconscious, and I was shoved to the ground and my hands injured; the ambulance came for me," she said. "It seems one of my hands is very badly injured."

The protests continued despite promises from local officials to scratch the project.

A resident surnamed Qu said police fired tear gas on the crowd after it swelled on Thursday to several thousand.

"The government had already said that evening that it would cancel the project, but then local people demanded the release of everyone who had been detained," Qu said. "The riot police used tear gas to disperse them, and then they chased them, and everyone ran off."

Tensions running high

Wednesday also saw sporadic clashes as protesters dispersed in the face of police baton charges before regrouping after they had eaten and gathering once more, Hu said.

Several hundred people charged into county government offices late on Wednesday, Hu said.

Tensions were still running high in Xitangqiao on Friday amid a tight security lock-down, local residents said.

"We had very serious clashes here in the past couple of days ... A lot of people here including myself had friends or relatives including old people who were injured," local resident Xiao Ting said.

"It was really chaotic, and a lot of people were beaten up ... Some had head injuries and blood pouring out," she said.

Calls to government offices in Haiyan county and Xitangqiao township rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Still skeptical

A resident surnamed Zheng said on Friday that local people are still skeptical about the government's promise to scrap the project.

"We will watch and we will wait," Zheng said. "The government may have promised to cancel the project, but a lot of people are still unsure and very fearful. The situation has calmed down today, but there are still large numbers of riot police patrolling the streets."

Protesters say the planned incinerator plant is too close to schools and a residential district and that pollution will likely affect their health.

"They can't build it right next to people's homes and schools," a protester surnamed Dai told RFA. "China is a big place, and there are no people at all in some parts of the country."

"Why do they have to build it in a densely populated area?" Dai said.

A resident surnamed Wang said she isn't against waste incinerators, but that they shouldn't be built too closely to residential areas.

"If waste needs to be processed in a centralized manner, then they should do it some distance away from the residential districts," Wang said. "We want them to pick a new location."

Reported by Wong Lok-to and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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