Pollution protestors clash with police

2012-07-28 08:31
Protesters have clashed with police over environmental damage. (AP)

Protesters have clashed with police over environmental damage. (AP)

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Qidong - Thousands of demonstrators protesting against alleged pollution from a paper factory in east China clashed with police on Saturday, an AFP photographer said.

The protestors overturned two cars and invaded the local government offices in the coastal city of Qidong, near Shanghai, the photographer said.

Demonstrators seized bottles of liquor and wine from the offices along with cartons of cigarettes, items which Chinese officials frequently receive as bribes.

A photograph posted on Sina Weibo, the main Chinese micro-blogging service, showed some of the items displayed outside the government building.

Thousands of people had gathered in a square in front of the local government offices and in adjacent streets on Saturday morning, with armed police arriving at the scene at 09:00.

Environmental degradation

Following the clashes, the local police said on their micro-blog that the paper mill, which belongs to Japanese company Oji Paper, would be "permanently closed" and called on the demonstrators to go home.

Protests against environmental degradation have increased in China, where three decades of rapid and unfettered industrial expansion have taken their toll.

The sewage pipe from the paper mill discharges into the sea in the port of Lusi, one of four fishing harbours in Qidong, said one protestor, who for safety reasons only gave her name as Qin.

Discharges were set to climb to 150 000 tons of sewage a day when the mill was fully operational, according to residents quoted on Friday by the state-run Global Times newspaper. Construction on the mill started in 2007.

Qin said there were 50 000 demonstrators, while a micro-blogger using the name Qidong Longhuisheng estimated numbers at 100 000.

"There are people everywhere, on walls, cars, rooftops, in streets," said another micro-blog user writing under the name Jiaojiaotaotailang, adding that "the air is filled with the smell of alcohol, and there are sounds of breaking glass".

Searches including "Qidong" were blocked on Saturday on Sina Weibo, which has more than 250 million subscribers.

The move to close the paper mill comes after Chinese authorities this month scrapped plans to build a metals plant in the southwest province of Sichuan following violent protests by local residents concerned about the planned factory's environmental impact.

The Chinese government warned on Friday that security would be tightened throughout the country ahead of a major Communist Party Congress this year, which should see a new generation of leaders take over the reins of power.

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