Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have fired tear gas at protesters angry over plans to build a waste incinerator plant near their homes amid violent clashes that continued on Monday, local residents said.
Around 1,000 police in full riot gear were dispatched on Sunday to Jinzao township near the coastal city of Shantou in the east of Guangdong after residents of several dozen villages began a mass protest at the planned plant.
“There were protests again today,” a local resident surnamed Cai told RFA on Monday. “We went to the government offices in Jinzao [township], starting at 7.00 or 8.00 a.m.”
“Everyone is against this; there isn’t a single person here who agrees with the plan to build a waste plant, otherwise we wouldn’t be causing trouble,” she said.
“Things got pretty serious in Village No. 11, which is in the mountains … right where they were planning to build the waste incinerator plant,” Cai said.
Protesters on Monday threw rocks and stones at riot police, smashing police vehicles, a second local resident told RFA.
“There were a lot of people here in the morning, throwing stones and suchlike,” the resident, who gave only a surname, Liu, said.
“Yesterday there were a lot of police vehicles here, and they drove into the mountains, police and riot police,” she said. “They had buses and everything.”
Photos of the protest posted to social media showed a dark-green police truck with a cannon-like object on its roof, as well as spent canisters picked up by local residents with the markings “CS-1 gas.”
Local residents tweeted that the police had fired tear gas canisters in an “offensive” on the villages near the planned site.
Dozens of people were injured and an unknown number detained, according to tweets from the scene.
“All the businesses in our village have closed, and nobody is working in the fields or on the mountains,” one tweet said. “It’s the mulberry harvest, but there are no trucks here to buy it.”
“Some people can’t get out of their homes, and there are drones in the sky above shooting footage of people’s movements,” the tweet said.
“The students have been boycotting class for a week already now.”
Local officials moved ahead with the planned project without the consent of local people, in a dispute that has dragged on for nearly two years, villagers said.
“They said it was all signed and agreed [with us] but nobody agreed to anything at all,” a third resident told RFA. “They are making it up … nobody agreed to their building this.”
An official who answered the phone at the Jinzao township government offices on Monday said all was now quiet in the area.
“The situation has calmed down now; it’s all quiet,” the official said. “The police dealt with the situation, so you should talk to them.”
Some 20,000 local residents, who staged a mass demonstration last January, remain totally opposed to the project, which they fear will damage their health and pollute local soil and water supplies.
A growing movement
More than three decades of breakneck economic growth have left Guangdong with a seriously degraded environment, causing a fast-maturing environmental movement to emerge among the region’s middle classes and farming communities alike.
Previous attempts to build similar plants elsewhere in the province have drawn widespread criticism over local government access to the huge potential profits linked to waste disposal projects.
Last year, authorities in Guangdong’s Puzhai township said they would cancel plans to build a waste-incineration plant there following angry protests and violent clashes between demonstrators and police.
Reported by Ka Pa and Wei Ling for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.