Uyghurs Say Cement Factory Pollutes Their Land


2004.09.17
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WASHINGTON—A cement factory built with incentives from China's much-vaunted investment drive in its poorer western regions is polluting the farmland of local Muslim Uyghur residents.

Sources told RFA's Uyghur service that around 30,000 farmers along the Youth River in Ghulja County in the northwestern region of Xinjiang had been affected by the cement factory, which pumped filthy waste water into the surrounding area.

"I am glad you called," one Uyghur who farms land near Rozimet village told RFA. "We have no place to express our opinions. The cement factory is polluting our air, water, land, and crops."

"I am glad you called. We have no place to express our opinions."

Helpless residents

A Han Chinese resident also confirmed the reports of pollution from the Nangang Cement Factory. "Yes, it is true. The cement factory is polluting our environment, but what can we do?"

Local officials denied the complaints. "How did you get this information?" the Ghulja county Communist Party secretary asked when contacted by RFA's Uyghur service.

"The cement factory is one of our very important enterprises, manufacturing 300,000 tons of cement a year. It is not polluting the environment," he said.

Internal affairs

Farmers in the area, which comprises arable land and orchards farmed mostly by Muslim Uyghur families, had complained to local authorities about noise and waste water pollution from the cement plant since it began operating a year ago, sources said.

A staff member who answered the telephone at the Nangang Factory refused to comment. "Washington DC? Isn't that in America? Why are you interfering in China's internal affairs?" he said, before hanging up.

So far, local residents' complaints have received no response, they said.

Strategic concerns

Beijing's "Go West" investment campaign is ostensibly aimed at boosting economic development in its poorer western inland regions, which have yet to benefit from the economic boom enjoyed by coastal areas.

But critics say the massive infrastructure spending program and tax incentive scheme is the product of China's strategic need to secure the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where Beijing's rule is deeply unpopular.

Uyghurs now make up just half of Xinjiang's population, following massive influxes of Han Chinese in recent years, many on the back of the investment drive.

On the Web:

Amnesty International on Beijing's 'war on terror'

China's Environmental Protection Agency

Overseas pro-independence Uyghur information site

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