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Chinese Villagers Clash With Police Over Industrial Pollution

Jiangxi villagers clash with police over pollution, Nov. 1, 2015. Picture taken from Chinese social media site Weibo.
Jiangxi villagers clash with police over pollution, Nov. 1, 2015. Picture taken from Chinese social media site Weibo.

Chinese police have violently cracked down on a local protest against industrial pollution in Jiangxi province, causing an unknown number of injuries.

Online video and photographs show thousands of villagers in China’s southern province of Jiangxi marching earlier this week to the industrial area of Wannian County, demanding the closure of several chemical plants invested in by the government.

Protesters held banners calling for “national action against pollution,” and “remove chemical enterprises that cause pollution.”

According to local residents speaking with VOA Tuesday, authorities sent in thousands of police to form a human wall in front of a factory before beating protesters with batons. They say authorities also fired tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd, causing demonstrators to retreat and continue a standoff with police from across the road.

A villager who did not want to be named told VOA Tuesday that one of the protesters from her village was hit five times in the back by rubber bullets.

“The government cracked down on us, won’t allow demonstrations; many ordinary people were hurt,” she said.

A video online shows police firing tear gas on demonstrators gathered in front of a building. Smoke billowed from the scene, with people screaming. Photographs show some people were severely beaten before being sent to local hospitals.

The thousands of demonstrators were from nearby villages and counties suffering from pollution caused by the chemical plants located in Wannian County. There is no information about how many people were injured, or whether anyone was arrested.

Wannian county government made two announcements on its web account accusing the demonstrators of trying to break into the plants. The government said nothing about police opening fire. Instead, it said the police exercised restraint, and tried to persuade people to leave.

The government also said the situation may escalate, because some villagers threaten to return home and bring steel pipes and other weapons to confront police and officials.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations against pollution caused by chemical plants in Wannian County.

Local villagers complain they have long suffered from industrial pollution. They believe the Le An River, which is the source of their drinking water, is heavily polluted due to a large amount of chemical spills, direct discharge and industrial accidents.

“We all drink from that river. As a result, kids got rash; we also got rash. We used to have lots of fish in the river, and then they all died. Several old people in the village have been diagnosed with lung cancer,” said one woman.

Local people said they have appealed to the government for help but to no avail.

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