Chinese villagers clash with police over pollution

Associated Press Modified: October 22, 2012 at 2:00 am •  Published: October 22, 2012
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BEIJING (AP) — Residents of a south China town protesting the building of a coal-fired power plant threw bricks at police who fired volleys of tear gas and detained dozens in the country's latest unrest over an environmental dispute, townspeople said Monday.

At least 1,000 people in the small town of Yinggehai on China's Hainan island launched several days of protests starting last week after construction resumed on the plant, which had been halted by earlier demonstrations. Dozens have been injured and many detained by police, who have put the town under strict surveillance, residents said.

Police and local officials declined to comment.

"They fired tear gas to disperse the crowds in the past few days," said a resident who gave only his surname, Xian, because he didn't want to be identified by authorities. "We don't want a power plant here that will cause serious pollution."

Three decades of rapid economic expansion in China have come at an environmental price, and residents have become increasingly outspoken about pollution in their backyards. In July, a southern town in Sichuan province scrapped plans for a copper plant after thousands clashed with police, and another community in eastern Jiangsu province dropped a waste water plant after similar demonstrations.

The protests are especially sensitive because they come ahead of next month's change in China's top leaders, who will have to balance a push for economic growth with maintaining public stability. Meanwhile, local leaders must balance their desire to attract industry with a public who do not want it in their neighborhoods.

In Yinggehai, an earlier round of protests took place in April when the plant project was first announced. Authorities then moved the project to another Hainan town, but it also drew strong opposition there and officials returned to their original plan, Xian said.

Schools in Yinggehai, a town of 18,000 people, have been closed since last Thursday, said another resident who lives in Shenzhen but is in regular contact with friends and family in his hometown.

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