MAC: Mines and Communities

Anti-coal protesters in China targeted by riot police

Published by MAC on 2011-12-27
Source: Reuters, AFP, 9 News

Deaths and many injuries reported

At least two people were allegedly killed, and many injured, in China when police tried to disperse around 30,000 citizens protesting against the construction of a coal-fired power plant in the southern town of Haimen.

Despite arrests - and a promise by the local government to suspend the plant's construction - on Friday the protest entered its fourth day.


Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters in China


23 December 2011

Hong Kong - Chinese riot police fired teargas to disperse a throng of protesters in a small town in southern China on Friday, the fourth day of demonstrations against the construction of a power station.

Footage from Hong Kong's Cable TV showed police firing several rounds of teargas in Haimen town, in the southern boom province of Guangdong, sending hundreds of people scuttling away.

The protests in Haimen intensified this week just as people about 130 km (80 miles) further along the coast, in Wukan village, called off a 10-day blockade of their village in a protest against what they said was a land grab by officials.

Protests in China have become relatively common over issues such as corruption, pollution, wages, and land grabs that local-level officials justify in the name of development.

Chinese experts put the number of "mass incidents", as such protests are known, at about 90,000 a year in recent years.

While Communist Party rule is not directly threatened by such incidents of unrest, officials fear they could coalesce into broader, more organised challenges to their power.

Residents of Haimen, a coastal town of about 120,000 people, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against plans to build a coal-fired power plant after what they complain has been years of heavy air and water pollution from existing power plants in the town.

They rejected an offer to suspend the project late on Wednesday, demanding it be scrapped altogether, and Hong Kong's Mingpao newspaper reported on Friday that they pledged to keep up their action if police did not release detained protesters.

China's state news agency Xinhua had reported that police had detained five people for vandalism on Wednesday evening.

People in China are increasingly unwilling to accept the relentless speed of urbanisation and industrialisation and the impact on the environment and health.

(Reporting By Sisi Tang; Writing by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Robert Birsel)

China police arrest protesters in south: witnesses


22 December 2011

HAIMEN, China - Police have begun arresting protesters in southern China after two days of violent clashes, witnesses said Thursday, as the local government warned against further "illegal" demonstrations.

Plainclothes police on Thursday arrested at least three people in Haimen, a town in Guangdong province where residents have been protesting against the expansion of a power plant they say is damaging their health, witnesses said.

"There are lots of plainclothes police officers on the street and the government has started to arrest people," a resident surnamed Zheng told AFP by telephone from Haimen.

"We don't dare go outside, but I heard a small group of people will still go to the highway today," he said, referring to the road where witnesses said police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators on Tuesday and Wednesday.

An AFP reporter in Haimen said the town was calm on Thursday. A large group of residents had gathered at a service station near the highway that was the scene of violent clashes on Wednesday, but they were not protesting.

Despite official efforts to block news of the unrest, residents posted warnings on weibo -- the Chinese version of Twitter -- telling demonstrators not to return to the highway because it was too dangerous.

"Martial law is in effect in the area around Deshengmen. The arrests have started. Please avoid coming here. Serious warning!," a web user said.

A witness to the Wednesday riots told AFP he saw protesters throwing rocks at police who responded by firing tear gas.

"Young men were throwing stones at the police from a long distance, about 200 metres, when the tear gas came over and over. We were all crying," he said by telephone.

Hong Kong media showed photographs from Wednesday of a police officer with a bloody head injury and an overturned police car surrounded by bricks.

The government of Shantou, which oversees Haimen, said the highway would reopen later Thursday and warned that detained protesters would be held accountable if the "illegal" demonstrations continued, state television reported.

Witnesses told AFP on Tuesday that a 15-year-old boy and a middle-aged woman had been killed in the clashes with police, although this could not be independently confirmed.

Oriental TV, a Hong Kong-based television station, said six residents had died and nearly 200 were injured in Tuesday's violent confrontation, which led local authorities to announce the suspension of a plan to expand the plant.

Local government officials declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

Tear gas fired at protesters in China seas

9 News

23 December 2011

Riot police in a southern Chinese coastal town have fired tear gas at protesters on the fourth day of unrest over a planned power plant expansion, according to a demonstrator's account and television footage.

A crowd of protesters were locked in a stand-off with police near the entrance to a highway in the town of Haimen on Friday, demanding that authorities release an unknown number of demonstrators, a man surnamed Lin told The Associated Press.

Police fired tear gas at the protesters, who were gathered quietly a few hundred metres from the highway entrance, Lin said.

"When they saw that more and more people had come to protest, they fired the tear gas to try to chase us away," Lin said.

"At the same time, a big gust of wind blew toward us, so we all had to run. My tears ran continuously. Our eyes are all red."

This is the third time police have used tear gas to disperse protesters in Haimen this week.

"We have no weapons at all - all we are doing is standing here and protesting," Lin said.

Hong Kong's Cable TV showed footage of tear-gas clouds being blown towards protesters, scattering the crowd of hundreds of people.

Riot police with helmets and shields had formed a blockade at the entrance to the highway.

Police have detained five people for vandalism during the protests, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Thursday.

The protesters are concerned that an existing coal-fired power plant has contributed to what they say is a rise in cancer cases and heavy pollution in the seas, a serious problem for a town where fishing is a source of livelihood.

In response to the protests, the local government said on Tuesday it would temporarily suspend the power-plant project, Xinhua said.

But protesters say they have not heard directly from authorities on the matter.

The protesters were also angered by rumours that one or two young demonstrators had died in clashes with police, but Xinhua cited a local Communist Party official as saying that no deaths had occurred.

After three decades of laxly regulated industrialisation, China is seeing a surge in protests over such environmental worries.

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