Protest Against Waste Plant in Hangzhou Turns Violent

Thousands of people in China’s Hangzhou city protested yesterday against plans by the local government to build a waste incinerator, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

At least 10 residents and 29 police were hurt in the clash that saw more than 30 cars overturned and two police vehicles set on fire, Xinhua said, citing local authorities. The highway linking Hangzhou, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) southwest of Shanghai, and the city of Huizhou was closed as demonstrators blocked a section of the road in Yuhang district where the plant will be built, it said.

The protest, in the capital of Zhejiang province and home to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., highlights Chinese residents’ growing willingness to challenge the state on environmental issues. President Xi Jinping said last month the nation must promote economic development in a more sustainable way and better protect people’s rights to eliminate social conflict.

Governments in cities across the country have delayed or scrapped plans for industrial projects over the past two years after confrontations with residents concerned about safety and pollution.

More than 1,000 residents in the city of Maoming in southern Guangdong province demonstrated against a planned paraxylene plant at the end of March, leading to the detention of 18 people after the protest turned violent, city officials said at an April 4 briefing.

Surrender Call

Protests against the waste project in Hangzhou were also held earlier this month, according to a report by Radio Free Asia on May 5 which cited local residents who said they feared pollution from the plant would affect their health. A statement posted on the website of the Yuhang government yesterday urged residents to maintain public order as hundreds of people have been gathering daily outside its offices.

People who violated laws in yesterday’s protest must surrender, the public security bureau of Yuhang district said on its verified microblog account today. It posted pictures of 15 people suspected of taking part in the violence.

Xu Wenguang, Communist Party chief of Yuhang district, said construction of the incinerator won’t begin without public support and before going through the legal process, Xinhua said in a separate report today. Xu’s comments reiterate a pledge given by the local government on its website yesterday.

Hangzhou listed the waste incinerator, with an annual capacity of 1.09 million tons and a total investment of 1.65 billion yuan ($265 million), as one of the city’s key projects this year, according to a statement on its website in February.

To convince local residents that the plant won’t cause pollution, the local government organized a tour to a similar plant in the southern city of Guangzhou, according to a May 5 report in the Hangzhou Daily, the local Communist Party’s official newspaper.

— With assistance by Nerys Avery

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