News / Asia

Chinese Residents in Kunming Protest Chemical Refinery

Chinese demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province, May 16, 2013.
Chinese demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province, May 16, 2013.
VOA News
Residents of the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming took to the streets Thursday for a protest against the construction of a state-run chemical and petroleum refinery they say will harm the environment.

Groups of shouting protesters waved flowers, wore symbolic face masks and carried banners warning of the dangers of paraxylene, a chemical set to be produced at the refinery by the powerful state company Petrochina Co.

One of the protesters, who identified herself only as Liu, said she rejects the government's argument that the plant is crucial for the local economy.

"We, the people of Kunming, cherish the skies of blue and the clouds of white, as well as good air. If you want to build a refining plant with a capacity of 10 million tons where we live, we resolutely oppose it."

The protest, which some included more than 2,000 people, was largely peaceful. But groups of protesters did scuffle with police, who were out in large numbers to contain the crowds. Some pictures on Chinese social media showed protesters being dragged away by what appear to be plainclothes officers.

It is the second large protest this month against the facility in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. Under increasing pressure, local officials have promised the facility will be environmentally friendly. But many citizens remain skeptical, pointing out what they say is the government's record of focusing on economic development without considering the environmental cost.

Many Chinese citizens are growing impatient with the country's worsening pollution and other environmental problems. They have increasingly taken to street protests to express their displeasure with massive state factories. In some cases, such protests have proven successful in derailing the projects.

Last November, a petrochemical project in the eastern city of Ningbo was suspended following days of protests. In 2011, large-scale protests in the northeastern city of Dalian forced the government to suspend a similar plant.

But authorities in some cases have cracked down hard on planned protests, flooding the streets with massive numbers of police. They have also worked to erase much of the criticism of such projects from China's popular microblogs.

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