News / Asia

As Opposition Grows, China Defends Plans for Petrochemical Plants

A man carrying a girl on his shoulder holds up a paper reading "PX (paraxylene petrochemicals) get out of Maoming, return us clean land", as demonstrators gather to protest against a chemical plant project, near the city government building in Maoming, Gu
A man carrying a girl on his shoulder holds up a paper reading "PX (paraxylene petrochemicals) get out of Maoming, return us clean land", as demonstrators gather to protest against a chemical plant project, near the city government building in Maoming, Gu
Reuters
— China has launched an intense media campaign to defend the safety of producing a chemical used to make polyester fiber, as public opposition to new petrochemical plants threatens to disrupt expansion plans by state energy giants.
 
Choking smog and environmental degradation in many parts of China is angering an increasingly educated and affluent urban class, and after a series of health scares and accidents there is deepening public skepticism of the safety of industries ranging from food to energy.
 
Illustrating this distrust, hundreds of residents in the southern Chinese city of Maoming demonstrated this month against plans to build a petrochemical plant to produce paraxylene, known as PX, a chemical used in making polyester fiber and plastics.
 
The plant is backed by the local government and China's biggest refiner, state-controlled Sinopec.
 
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of PX and polyester, vital for the country's textile industry, which generated $290 billion of overseas sales, or 13 percent of China's total exports last year, according to customs data.
 
State television, CCTV, last week aired six short features showing staff reporters visiting petrochemical facilities in Japan, South Korea and Singapore producing PX in a bid to assure the public over safety.
 
China's state-dominated oil and petrochemical sector has had a poor safety record in the last decade.
 
Accidents have included a gas well explosion in the sprawling municipality of Chongqing in 2003 that killed 234, a 2005 chemical leak into a river in Jilin that poisoned drinking water and a pipeline explosion in Qingdao that killed 62 last November.
 
“The reason why the industry has lost credibility is not that it hasn't carried out public relations or education work properly, but because of repeated accidents,” said Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, an independent environmental group.
 
China still relies heavily on importing PX. Last year, China imported just over 9 million tons worth about $18 billion, mainly from South Korea, Singapore and Japan, exceeding domestic output of 8.3 million tons.
 
There have been demonstrations in six Chinese cities since 2007 against plans for PX plants, forcing at least one plant to relocate and another two to be shelved or canceled.
 
The state media campaign on television and online has sought to reassure the public over the safety of PX.
 
One CCTV broadcast showed a middle-aged man taking a stroll at a beachside park in Singapore, across from the city state's chemical hub of Jurong Island, saying he liked walking in the park because “the air there was fresh.”
 
A CCTV story headlined “Telling you the truth on PX” said that countries such as the United States did not treat PX as a toxic chemical.
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says effects from exposure to the xylene group of chemicals derived from refining oil - including mixed xylene and paraxylene - can range from nose and throat irritation to memory impairment, though they are not classified as cancer-inducing.
 
Cao Xianghong, a former senior vice president at Sinopec, told a government-backed conference of nearly 300 participants on PX that the petrochemical industry had to share some of the blame for the public concerns, particularly in the way safety and environmental issues have been managed.
 
“The serious pollution cases and accidents that the industry has had have naturally scared people,” Cao said at the PX forum last week organized by the China Association for Science and Technology.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid