Chinese protesters stop copper plant project | News | DW | 03.07.2012
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Chinese protesters stop copper plant project

Local officials in China have cancelled plans for a copper alloy plant after three days of street protests against the project. Thousands of local residents had taken to the streets over health concerns.

The government of Shifang announced on Tuesday that it had cancelled plans to build a copper alloy plant in the city in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.

"The molybdenum-copper alloy factory will no longer be built in Shifang city," a statement posted on the muncipality's official website said.

The change in plans followed an earlier statement in which the municipal government had threatened demonstrators with "severe" punishment if they failed to end three days of protests against the construction plans. The government later declared the building project suspended, in an effort to placate the protesters.

However this failed to satisfy the demonstrators, some of whom told reporters that they wouldn’t stop because they were convinced that the plant would harm their health.

"We have so many people in Shifang, we aren't afraid of them," an 18-year-old woman, who declined to be identified told the Reuters news agency in a telephone interview. "The Shifang people will definitely not surrender."

She added that about 1,000 people had taken part in the protest on Tuesday.

The city government had given protest organizers a three-day window to cease demonstrations before the government would begin taking severe action. It also singled out anyone who had used any means of “incitement,” including the Internet or text messaging.

Protesters in Shifang, China believe a planned copper alloy plant will poison their city.

Protesters took to the streets for three straight days

Anger over police violence

The threat of punishment appears to have failed to deter the protesters, while efforts by police to put down the demonstrations by force seem to have made them even more determined to get the construction of the plant stopped.

"It will make our home city a town of death," a middle school student surnamed Liu told the Associated Press. "People are very upset. How could the police beat them?" she said.

People first took to the streets on Sunday evening, gathering in front of the city government building. The unidentified source quoted by Reuters estimated that roughly 10,000 people, mostly students, had joined the movement by the next day.

Shifang anti-riot police moved in on Monday, as protesters swarmed the city government building and damaged police cars, according to Hong Kong media. Police responded by launching tear gas into the crowds.

The clash led to an estimated 13 injuries on Monday, the city government said. Unconfirmed reports circulating online claimed one person had died.

While the city government, in its most recent statement, made it clear that the plant would not be built in Shifang, it didn't say where the plant would now be built.

kms/pfd (Reuters, AP)