Thousands of residents of the southern Chinese island province of Hainan took to the streets of Ledong county in protest at plans to build a coal-fired power plant in their hometown.
Protesters arrived on Sunday at the venue for Monday’s opening ceremony which will kick-start construction work on the plant, carrying banners which read “Protect the sea, which is our livelihood.”
Local sources said some protesters also attacked local government buildings, clashing with riot police who were deployed to restore order.
Online news reports related to the protest appeared on microblogs and chatrooms, but were quickly deleted.
“Right now there are a lot of police,” said a Ledong county resident surnamed Mao. “Yesterday we went on strike so as to obstruct the beginning of construction.”
“Pretty much everyone in [Yinggehai] township turned out, and none of the shops or businesses opened.”
“They haven’t started work yet, and if they do, we will certainly be taking further action,” Mao said.
He said the villagers were afraid that the sea pollution caused by a coal-fired power plant would wipe out their fishing businesses and farmland.
“There were around 10,000 people there [on Saturday],” Mao said.
Plans for the 1.9 billion yuan (U.S. $301 million) Yinggehai coal-fired power plant were initially mooted in 2007, but didn’t receive approval from the National Resources Bureau in Beijing until last November.
They were opposed by more than 8,000 local residents during a ground-breaking consultation exercise carried out by China Power’s Hainan division in January.
An official who answered the phone at the Yinggehai township government offices on Sunday said the government was trying to persuade the villagers to accept the project.
“Right now we are carrying out propaganda work to the best of our ability in the township to let people know the situation,” the official said.
But he said it was “not likely” that the project would be stalled by the protests.
“This is a project which has been ordered by the government at national level, so we will implement it regardless of how much resistance we meet,” he said.
“As long as they don’t use violence or attack the government, we will do our utmost to explain it to them.”
He said anyone who broke the law would be dealt with “according to the relevant laws and regulations.”
Chen Li, a Yinggehai high school student, called on netizens via her microblog account to “help save our village.”
“We can’t win against those rich officials,” Chen wrote. “The news has all been cut off online, and government microblog @zhibohainan is paying no attention to us.”
She said high-school students were being put under pressure to agree to the power plant project by their school principal and teachers.
“Otherwise, they won’t enter us for the college entrance examination,” Chen said.
A Yinggehai resident surnamed Hu said the government had failed to take local people into account when making its plans.
“They think they can implement any plans they like, but there is no benefit to us that will come from this at all,” he said.
“They won’t let us take photos and they won’t let us go online,” he said. “They have called in the troops and the riot police to suppress us, but we are not afraid.”
“The entire township, including 20,000 people who came back from elsewhere in China, [is against them.],” he said. “This project is just 900 meters (2,952 feet) from our homes, and if it gets started then we are dead, for sure.”
“All we can do is beg the media to report it.”
Courtesy our partners at the Sierra Club. Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
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