Thousands of people staged a protest in Heyuan in Guangdong province on Sunday to voice their opposition to an expansion project of a coal-fired power plant in the city, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The protesters, whose number is said to have reached as much as ten thousand at one stage, began their demonstration with a sit-in near the city hall at 8 am, carrying protest signs and demanding a dialogue with officials.
They then marched on the main roads in the city, holding large banners denouncing the power plant project. The coal-fired plant will damage people’s health as well as the environment, the protesters argued.
As the rally participants urged bystanders on the roadside to join the march, hundreds of policemen with shields and batons kept close watch. Some sporadic clashes are said to have taken place between the police and protesters.
Five hours after the protest began, Huang Jianzhong, deputy party secretary of Heyuan, appeared at the scene and tried to reassure the protesters that the new power plant unit will not cause pollution.
Residents had complained of smog in Heyuan city since the power plant there began operations in 2008. But officials recently approved a second phase for the project, Xinhua news agency reported.
Residents are worried that the expansion of the plant could aggravate the already grim environmental pollution. Some villagers living near the city said their orchards have not been able to bear fruit while others complained that the heavy smog in the air keeps them from opening windows during day time.
The city’s members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference submitted in February a proposal to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, expressing their objection to the power plant expansion plan.
In March, local government officials held a meeting with residents’ representatives to allay concerns over the project. But the assurances failed to convince the people.
Heyuan is located at the upper middle stream of Dongjiang, a branch of Pearl River and the source of Hong Kong’s water supply. Some observers fear that sulphur dioxide in the air might get dissolved in rain and get into Dongjiang, posing a safety risk to drinking water supply to Hong Kong, Shenzhen and some other places.
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