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Chinese police, protestors, clash over proposed paraxylene plant

By: Steve Toloken

March 31, 2014

Chinese police fought March 30 with protestors marching against a proposed chemical plant making paraxylene, a building block for PET and fibers, in the southern city of Maoming.

According to the Maoming government, a “rational and peaceful” protest against a PX plant turned violent as some people started throwing stones and water bottles.

Chinese users of social media posted descriptions and pictures of violence and bloody scenes, but the posts and photos cannot be confirmed.

The Maoming government said in a statement that the incident caused no “death.” It did not give information about injuries.

A protester interviewed by the Wall Street Journal said the protest was peaceful until in the evening when he saw people destroying public facilities such as bus stops and clashing with the police.

A second statement on the government website said the protest was illegal because it said no applications were made to local authorities to hold the march and it urged the public to ''not let the criminals take advantage'' of the situation.

The march in Maoming, a petrochemical hub in Guangdong province, is the latest in a series of public protests in recent years against proposed chemical plants in China, directed at factories making plastics pre-cursor chemicals such as PX.

Some of the previous protests have resulted in the projects being moved or scrapped.

Opposition to the Maoming PX project, a joint venture of the local government and Sinopec, has apparently been brewing for quite some time.

A 2009 story in the state-run China Daily newspaper claimed there were ''strong protests from nearby residents'' in the city who were worried about pollution and health problems. Some local residents have since been actively against the plant.

Maoming is home to one of four petrochemical hubs under construction in Guangdong province, which has China's largest local plastics industry.

A provincial website said in 2011 that two PX factories were planned for Maoming, along with large oil refining, ethylene and fine chemicals facilities.

The Maoming government said it welcomed public opinion expressed through “proper channels” and urged residents not to believe rumors and to study the science behind PX.

Maoming also has been in the public spotlight for corruption scandals, the latest being a March 28 announcement of an investigation of a local official who has been retired for two years, but never had his post refilled.

A former Communist party secretary for the city was given a suspended death sentence last month for allegedly taking more than 20 million yuan ($3.25 million) in bribes, the same sentence given to his predecessor last year.

A 2011 China Daily story cited another case involving a former executive vice mayor of Maoming who confessed to receiving nearly $2 million in bribes. Prosecutors said part of that case involved money solicited for a land lease for an unidentified local chemical company.