HONG KONG—Several hundred villagers from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian have been camping out on a major road since last Thursday protesting pollution from a nearby chemical processing plant, residents said.
The residents of Fuwen village, Shunchang county, were camping in tents on the highway and had set up barricades of timber and rubble, preventing any traffic from getting through.
“We are not asking for money. We are simply saying that we won’t leave until the factory stops polluting our environment,” one villager told RFA’s Cantonese service.
“Our children can’t even get into the army because they all fail the medical. They are in bad health because of the pollution, so they can’t even be soldiers. Not one of them has passed the medical,” the villager said.
She said local authorities had effectively blocked any attempts by Fujian journalists to cover the story.
We are not asking for money. We are simply saying that we won't leave until the factory stops polluting our environment.
Residents said pollution from a chemical gas plant had also spoiled their crops, and they called for an immediate end to the spewing out of polluting gases and wastewater from an industrial zone in their neighborhood.
A local official said the blockade had succeeded in cutting of the supply of raw materials to the factory, and most of its processes had already been forced to halt production as a result.
The spokesman for the village committee told RFA Tuesday that a large number of villagers was still blocking the road and that local officials had come to persuade them to leave, but that the protesters had refused.
“The government has asked them to use more reasonable means to make their point,” he said. “It’s illegal to block the highway. They should remove the blockade and then should take their concerns and requests to the government for discussion.”
“It is wrong to block the road, the only road in the area,” he said.
Shunchang county is home to the 120-hectare (300-acre) Fuwen Mining and Industrial Zone, in which 35 factories are located.
The seven year-old zone is a cornerstone of the local government’s strategy to attract investment to the county, and more chemical and smelting plants are expected to set up there in the future, residents said.
China’s government records tens of thousands of incidents of popular unrest annually.
While many of these incidents center around land disputes, a growing number of protests focus on environmental concerns as local officials turn a blind eye to polluting industries in a breakneck dash to attract much-needed investment.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Lee Kin-kwan. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.