Chinese Police Fire 'Warning Shots' Amid Clashes Over Solar Farm

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Workers walk past arrays of solar panels at a solar power plant in Qinghai province, in a file photo.
Workers walk past arrays of solar panels at a solar power plant in Qinghai province, in a file photo.

Police in the remote western Chinese province of Qinghai fired "warning shots" during clashes with protesters blocking construction of a solar power station near their homes, local government officials said on Friday.

"The aim of the warning shots was to stop local people from obstructing construction work," the government of Qinghai's Hualong Hui Autonomous County said in a statement.

"No deaths or injuries occurred as a result."

Local residents were staging a sit-in at the site, and calling on the authorities to provide new housing for all families affected by the site, as well as compensation for grazing lands lost to the project, it said.

However, the power station "won't cause environmental damage," the government said. "The government guarantees [residents] will continue to enjoy the same level of subsidy and access to grazing within the same area," it said.

The warning shots were fired during clashes between protesters and police on Wednesday, residents told RFA.

"The police fired warning shots only, and no one was hit," an official surnamed Huang who answered the phone at the Hualong county government offices on Friday told RFA.

Huang said protesters had begun blockading the construction site on Tuesday, and had succeeded in preventing any traffic coming in or out by Wednesday, setting up camp on the site.

"This is an environmentally friendly project which the county government fully supports, but there are about seven or eight local residents who have been kicking up an almighty fuss," the official said. "Our police chief was forced to fire warning shots."

"We have already paid reasonable compensation to the local people, so this is just a few people making a fuss for no reason."

No consultation

Jiangsu-based environmental activist Wu Lihong said the government should have carried out a consultation exercise before starting work on the project, however.

"They should solicit public opinion when planning a solar power station," Wu said. "They should explain all the details of the power station to the villagers, and award reasonable compensation."

The Machanshan solar farm, when finished, will cover an area of grazing land measuring 18,500 mu (1,233 hectares) and have a total annual output of 615 million kilowatt hours, according to the government website.

The clashes in Qinghai come amid a growing wave of public anger over official land grabs for major infrastructure projects, which local residents say are often begun with little or no public consultation.

On Thursday, hundreds of local residents clashed with police in the southern island province of Hainan over a planned power substation near Qionghai city.

Detained and released

Police detained nine people during the clashes in Qionghai's Jiaji township, although they were later released.

"More than 1,000 police, urban management officials and riot police came at around 11:00 a.m.," a protester surnamed Guo told RFA on Friday. "They didn't bother to hold a meeting with local people; it seemed their aim was suppression by force."

A second protester, also surnamed Guo, said there had been no announcement of the land requisitioning beforehand.

"There was no announcement. When the time came to take the land, officials just went through the village from household to household, gathering signatures," he said.

"They paid 1,000 yuan [about U.S. $162] per signature."

He said villagers had researched such substations online and discovered a number of potentially harmful effects.

"We took [our concerns] to the government. We had several hundred signatures and seals, but they didn't pay any attention," he added.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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