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China Arrests 53 for Environmental Protest Turned Violent

Riot police stand by the side of the road at the entrance of Yuhang town after a night of riots, west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, May 11, 2014.
Police in China say they have arrested at least 53 people in connection with environmental protests that turned violent on Saturday.

The protests were against plans to build a large waste incinerator in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

In a statement released Monday, police in Hangzhou said seven others have been detained for "spreading rumors" about the matter on social media sites.

The protest in Hangzhou turned violent when authorities tried to crack down on the rally. At least 10 demonstrators and 29 police officers were injured during the confrontation. The official Xinhua news agency said more than 30 cars were overturned.

Officials say they will seek public support for the incinerator project before trying to build it.

This is not the first large protest against industrial projects in China, where many cities are covered in heavy smog for much of the year.

Chen Jieren, a Beijing-based political analyst, told VOA's Mandarin service that efforts to stop dissent have left citizens with no peaceful avenues to protest government policies.

“Governmental and non-governmental pressure clamps down on transformations of civil society in all sorts of ways," said Chen Jieren. "[The government] arrested and punished Dr. Su Zhiwang, his New Citizens Movement, and similar communities that use non-violent means to express ideas. This has created a lack of channels of communication between the people and the government, [which] ultimately will develop into incidents where violence is used to defend legal rights."

After large protests in March against a proposed paraxylene plant in the city of Maoming, officials said they would not proceed with the facility if public resistance remained high.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.