China: more anti-pollution protests

This wave of peasant protest is the first glimmer of real opposition in China since Tiananmen Square. Yet it is getting little media coverage, and the outside world is largely ignoring it. The protests have been sweeping the industrial heartland along the South China Sea coast for months, and some have been incredibly violent—almost paramilitary in their level of organization and militancy, if not weaponry. But is there any leadership or coordination? Or are the protests all still “spontaneous”? From Reuters, via Environmental News Network, April 13:

HONG KONG — About 200 Chinese villagers, angry over pollution of their water supply, attacked three factories and a sewage treatment plant, a Hong Kong newspaper said on Wednesday.

The villagers in the eastern province of Fujian, some armed with iron bars, smashed windows and appliances on Saturday at the sewage plant, two leather factories and a South Korean-invested plastics factory, the South China Morning Post said.

“They rushed into the office building, kitchen, dormitory and grocery store, smashed all the glass, air conditioners and other breakable things and took anything valuable, including kitchen items,” the paper quoted the owner of the Xinde Leather Co. in Quanzhou as saying. Three cars were also destroyed, he said.

Police and local officials later broke up the protest.

Protests against polluting industries are common across China’s countryside, where the environment has all too often been sacrificed in the pursuit of profits. Outright attacks are less widely reported.

Villagers had complained that discharge from the sewage treatment plant, about 1 km (half a mile) from their homes, had polluted the water supply, damaged crops and created a lingering stench, the newspaper said.

See our last post on peasant unrest in China.