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China Protests Seen Halting Sinopec Chemicals Plant

China Protests Seen Halting Sinopec Chemicals Plant
Sinopec storage tanks in the Tsing Yi area of Hong Kong. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Chinese authorities signaled they may halt plans for a petrochemical plant in the southern province of Guangdong after concerns over the environmental impact triggered street protests.

Construction of a paraxylene, or PX, plant in Maoming city will not go ahead if a majority of residents oppose it, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today, citing a city official it didn’t identify.

More than 1,000 residents protested over the weekend in Maoming in opposition to the plant being built by the local government and Sinopec Maoming Co., a unit of state-owned China Petrochemical Corp., known as Sinopec Group.

The protests are the latest sign of growing public anger in China over pollution. Photos of the demonstration on social networking site Weibo showed an overturned car on the street and a crowd of people raising clenched fists. One photo showed a crowd of people carrying a sign saying the PX plant should “get out of Maoming.”

PX is a building block of plastics and synthetic fibers.

Last May, hundreds of people took to the streets of Kunming in Yunnan province to protest plans to produce PX at a new refinery.

“There is no doubt the paraxylene projects are not very popular in China now,” Wang Zhiqing, chairman of Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co., said at a press conference today after the company reported annual results last week.

The company is conducting a feasibility study on building a 1 million-metric-ton PX project at its own industrial park near Shanghai, Wang said. The refinery in Maoming was slated to produce 600,000 tons, according to the Maoming Municipal Economic and Trade Bureau.

Lv Dapeng, a Beijing-based spokesman for Sinopec Group, didn’t answer two calls to his office seeking comment.

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