Chinese police fire teargas at power station protesters
Riot police block entrances to Haimen town to quell protests over a proposed coal-fired plant in southern China.
Chinese police have fired teargas to break up demonstrations over a proposed power plant in a southern China town, where protests have escalated into clashes with police this week.
Riot police blocked entrances to Haimen town and aimed teargas canisters at lines of protesters on motorbikes to quell the unrest in the southern province of Guangdong, an economic powerhouse.
Haimen, a coastal town of about 120,000 people, is 80 miles east of Wukan, where a 10-day siege of villagers protesting against a “land grab” ended on Wednesday after the provincial government brokered a deal.
Protests in China have become relatively common over corruption, pollution, wages, and land grabs that local 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.
The grip of Communist party rule is not directly threatened by such unrest, but officials fear they could coalesce into broader more organised challenges to their power.
The Haimen tensions have flared for three days as residents protest against plans for another coal-fired power plant, some turning over cars and throwing bricks in clashes with police.
On Thursday, riot police sent teargas into an open space to hold back a large band of protesters on motorbikes, according to footage shown on Hong Kong’s Cable TV. As smoke billowed towards the crowd, some protesters could be seen riding away quickly.
A Reuters witness earlier saw that about 100 men on motorbikes had gathered to watch the wall of police, armed with batons and shields, who were blocking the highway near a large, shuttered petrol station.
“What place in the world builds two power plants within one kilometre?” said one of the Haimen residents as he watched police lines a few hundred metres away.
“The factories are hazardous to our health. Our fish are dying and there are so many people who’ve got cancer,” he said.
“We thought of protesting outside the government office but we know none of them has listened to us. So we had no choice but to block the highway. The police beat up so many of the protesters in the past two days.”
At one point on Thursday the Haimen residents screamed and surged forward when a riot policeman, waving his baton in the air, charged towards a man on a motorcycle who had been riding towards the police blockade on the highway.
“This place is very chaotic, I think it’s best for you to leave immediately,” a man who identified himself as a Shantou government official told a Reuters reporter.
Officials have said they would suspend construction on the project, but residents refused to back down, demanding the plan be scrapped completely.
The Haimen unrest is the latest challenge for Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, a contender for promotion to the highest echelons of the Communist party in a leadership transition in late 2012.
China’s top newspaper praised the defusing of tensions in nearby Wukan, suggesting that the handling of the dispute would not necessarily hurt Wang’s prospects.
The People’s Daily chided local officials for letting the dispute get out of hand in the first place, but also hailed the outcome as an example of how the government should handle an increasingly fractious and vocal society.
Residents of Wukan fended off police with barricades and held protests for days over the land dispute and death in police custody of a village organiser, rejecting the government’s position that a postmortem showed he died of natural causes.
But after talks with senior officials, village representatives told residents to pull down protest banners and go back to their normal lives — provided the government kept to its word.
Police in Haimen are using the more traditional method for breaking up protests in China — teargas and truncheons. Exits to Haimen from the expressway to nearby Shantou city were closed down.
But life appeared to be normal in other parts of Haimen on Thursday, with shops open and people going about their business.
Government officials, including those in charge of security, have been vague and played down the unrest. A Shantou official told Reuters by telephone there had been injuries in the clashes but no deaths.
An official at the Chaoyang public security bureau denied any deaths or injuries, although he said there had been a “gathering” the previous day. Haimen is under the jurisdiction of Chaoyang district.
State news agency Xinhua said several hundred people had protested on a highway on Wednesday.
According to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper, more than 1,000 residents had gathered at a toll gate to confront hundreds of police.
On Thursday, China’s main official newspapers published an account of a speech by Zhou Yongkang, chief of domestic security, who urged officials to ensure “a harmonious and stable social setting” ahead of the Communist party’s 18th congress late next year.
At that congress, President Hu Jintao and his cohort will give way to a new generation of central leaders, a sensitive transition for the one-party government.
Leur presse (Reuters), 22 décembre 2011.
Après les révoltés de Wukan, la colère de Haimen
Nouveau conflit social dans le sud de la Chine, à la Une de Dongfang Ribao, un quotidien de l’est, ce matin « le conflit entre la police et le peuple au village Haimen, dans la ville de Shantou, à Guangdong où 10’000 personnes manifestent contre la construction d’une centrale électrique. Six morts et 200 blessés. La police a utilisé des gaz lacrymogènes. »
D’après le site d’information Nanyang, « parce que la plupart des policiers sont envoyés à Wukan, il n’y a plus assez de forces de l’ordre au gouvernement local. Les manifestants ont brisé la porte et ont occupé tout l’immeuble du gouvernement de Haimen. D’un autre côté, des milliers des villageois ont bloqué l’autoroute. » Il y a déjà une centrale électrique à Haimen. « Elle a beaucoup pollué l’eau et l’air de Haimen », dit Wang, un commençant de fruits de mer.
Version officielle : « Hier matin à 10h, des centaines de personnes ont manifesté devant le siège du gouvernement de Haimen. À 12h, ils ont bloqué l’autoroute. Les villageois ont peur de la pollution de la centrale. Les officiels du gouvernement sont venus tout de suite parler avec eux. À 16h, les manifestants sont partis et la circulation sur l’autoroute a été rétablie », écrit Shantou Ribao, le quotidien de Shantou.
D’après Xincheng Diantai, une radio à Hongkong, le gouvernement local a décidé de suspendu ce projet de centrale électrique.
À Wukan, ce matin, un villageois est entré dans immeuble du gouvernement de Lufeng pour des négociations. « On a gagné. Le gouvernement a promis de rendre le corps de Xue Jinbo. Mais on ne sait pas encore quand », dit un villageois. « Le gouvernement a aussi promis de faire une investigation sur la raison de mort de Xue. Mais ils n’ont rien dit sur l’indemnisation de la terre. » (…)
Leur presse (RFI), 22 décembre 2011.
Chinese seaside town protesters in standoff with police, some detained
Chinese authorities have detained a number of people in a southern seaside town where protests against a planned power plant resulted in clashes with police, an official said Thursday, as riot police fired tear gas during a third day of unrest.
Thousands of people in the town of Haimen wanting to block a highway were locked in a standoff with riot police, said protesters contacted by The Associated Press.
A city Communist Party propaganda official surnamed Chen said some people who had participated in “illegal activities that endanger public security” earlier this week had been detained, but said he was uncertain how many.
A resident also surnamed Chen, who is not related to the official, said a few thousand people gathered to face a roadblock set up by police. “Police set up a roadblock at the highway and threatened to arrest anyone who dared to cross,” Chen said.
The protesters think 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.
“We just want to ask the central government to order the construction of the coal power plant to be stopped,” said Lin Fujin, a Haimen resident who was at the scene. “The pollution has turned the sky black and the fish are dead.”
Footage from Hong Kong’s Cable TV showed tear gas canisters hitting the ground in front of a gas station as panicked residents fled in various directions.
The broadcaster also showed riot police with helmets and shields lined up around a large water cannon truck facing dozens of people on the other side of a road.
“The police hit me,” a woman with bloodied hands told Cable TV, surrounded by an angry crowd. “I just wanted to go over there to offer an explanation but they started to drag me on the road.”
In response to protests earlier in the week, the local government said it would temporarily suspend the power plant project, according to a report by the local Shantou Daily newspaper which could not be immediately verified.
But protesters say they did not believe the report and that they have not heard directly from authorities on the matter.
After three decades of laxly regulated industrialization, China is seeing a surge in protests over such environmental worries.
In September, hundreds of villagers in an eastern Chinese city near Shanghai demonstrated against pollution they blamed on a solar panel factory. In August, 12,000 residents in the northeastern port city of Dalian protested against a chemical plant after waves from a tropical storm broke a dike guarding the plant and raised fears that flood waters could release toxic chemicals.
Leur presse (The Associated Press), 22 décembre 2011.