Chem plants at Huaxi, China shut after pollution protests

Source: ICIS News

2005/04/15

SINGAPORE (CNI)--Several chemical plants at the Chinese village of Huaxi in Dongyang city, Zhejiang province have been shut after demonstrations against chemical pollution turned ugly, government sources told CNI on Friday.

According to one local report, the riots started after a vehicle crushed an elderly woman to death during the protest. Witnesses reportedly saw protesters overturn police cars and public buses, smash windows and attack police officers who used tear gas in an attempt to restore calm.

Unconfirmed reports said up to 60,000 protesters – many from outside Huaxi – turned up to protest, especially against pesticides producer Dongnong Chemical Co. Outnumbered police officers reportedly fled the scene after removing their uniforms.

The villagers blocked a road leading to the 500-hectare Zhuxi Chemical Industry Park, where over 10 companies including Dongnan Chemical had set up factories several years ago.

Friends of Nature (FoN), an environmental group based in Beijing, said some of the companies polluted the water and ground in the area around them. The poisonous fumes also led to deformed babies being born in the village, with residents also fearing for the safety of children in two schools that are less than 100m away from the park.

FoN added that the worst culprit was Dongnong Chemical, which produces herbicides, fungicides and benzotrichloride.

Huaxi is also home to China’s largest recycled plastics trading centre, said a report. Companies would transport imported waste plastics from Ningbo port to Huaxi, and the plastics that could not be reused polluted the environment and led to serious problems.

The reports said that complaints to the government went unheeded, with some suggesting that local officials had a stake in the companies involved.

Dongyang Daily, a state-owned newspaper, said on Tuesday that the villagers had started the protest on 24 March. It added that 36 officials were injured during the clash, but nobody died. Another report said that the protest started on 20 March and that more than 70 people, mostly police officers, were admitted for treatment in a hospital.

Dongnong Chemical was unavailable for comment and the villagers could not be reached.

A Dongyang government official told CNI that the plants had been shut. He added that the protests had ended, and that the authorities would try to solve the pollution problem.