Chinese protesters take on chemical plant – and win

Scuffles broke out during the protest, but no injuries were reported.
 
On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the north-eastern city of Dalian to demand the relocation of a chemical plant after a toxic spill scare. In a rare concession, local authorities have agreed to their demands.
 
Protesters gathered in front of the municipal government’s offices chanted “Fujia, get out!”, referring to a local plant that manufactures a toxic petrochemical called paraxylene, or PX. Residents of Dalian, already traumatized by an oil spill last year, fear the plant could cause another toxic spill in their city.
 
Their fears were heightened earlier in the week after a storm burst a sea dyke near the plant, prompting concern that toxic chemicals may have been released.
 
In response, the city’s mayor promised the plant would be relocated. This was not enough to calm the protesters, who kept demonstrating until riot police dispersed the crowds. Local authorities later told state media they would close the plant right away.
 
The protest underscores the Chinese public’s growing anger over environmental hazards in China. While Chinese leaders have vowed to cut back on pollution, many in China complain that local governments continue to prioritize growth at the expense of a healthy environment.
 
This video, posted to YouTube by haoming2011, shows protesters taking a so-called "stroll" to demand the relocation of the Fujia chemical plant.
 
This video, posted to YouTube by RandyZew, shows protesters gathered in front of Dalian's town hall. Local leaders, perched atop a police van, try to calm the crowd. 
Contributors

“I’ve never seen the people of Dalian so united. People from all classes joined this protest”

Rosemary lives in Dalian.
 
In the past, Dalian was very beautiful. It had a reputation as one of the most comfortable cities to live in [in the region]. But in recent years, Dalian has become dirtier and dirtier. Traffic jams have become a serious problem. Citizens are angry. The PX plant was just the last drop. All the emotions bottled up for years burst out.
 
We want Dalian to return to the beautiful, clean city it once was. But the local government just continues to develop real estate to serve their own interest, ignoring the people’s wishes. In order to increase GDP, the government has allowed dangerous and toxic chemical plants to be built in Dalian.
 
People in Dalian are usually very calm. We never expected to have to resist out in the streets like this. I’ve never seen the people of Dalian so united. People from all classes joined this protest. Most of them were from the younger generation, born after 1980. They responded to the calls for protest circulating online. Other traditional media have blocked this story. [Many demonstrators posted video and photos of the protest on social media sites, but searches for “Dalian,” “PX” or “stroll” – group strolls are a Chinese alternative to protests – were quickly censored by the authorities.
 
At first, I didn’t think protesting was a good idea, but we had no other way. We love our hometown, and yet we are ignored. Sunday’s protesters were civilised and peaceful. I think the protest was partly successful: the secretary of the Communist Party Committee told us the PX plant would be relocated. But protesters want to know when the plant will be moved, and the government has not given a timetable."
 
Protesters called the chemical plant "a ticking time bomb." Photo posted to social media site Weibo. 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaëlle Faure. 

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