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World

Chinese protesters march against trash incinerator

Didi Tang - The Philippine Star

BEIJING — Thousands of people took to the streets of a southern Chinese town on yesterday, some clashing with police, to protest a proposed garbage incinerating plant, participants and eyewitnesses said.

The demonstration in Guangdong province's Boluo county was the latest to highlight how Chinese have become increasingly wary of the environmental hazards of such projects but still lack public forums to voice their concerns and affect the government's decision-making process.

"I am worried about the impact it may have on the water source," said a local resident who gave only his family name, Chen, in fear of possible government retaliation. "Burning will definitely cause air pollution. We are concerned about the health of our children."

A public notice by the Boluo county government said about 1,000 people gathered in the county seat's public square to question the location for the proposed project. Protesters and eyewitnesses, however, estimated that 10,000-20,000 people joined the rally, and provided photos showing thick crowds as wide as four car lanes moving down streets.

The demonstration came several months after a massive protest over a proposed waste incinerator in the eastern city of Hangzhou left at least 10 demonstrators and 29 police officers injured in May.

China's cities are challenged with the daunting task of properly disposing of huge amounts of trash generated by the country's growing and increasingly affluent urban population. Experts and government officials believe high-standard incinerators can be a feasible solution to ensure public sanitation.

Yet members of the Chinese public are not ready to accept government proposals for trash incinerators despite repeated assurances that such projects will have minimal environmental impact. Rather, they remain deeply skeptical about their local governments.

Observers have said that a lack of transparency and meaningful public engagement have sowed the distrust.

"There also have been some old scores to settle as the governments have promised the use of some technology, but, as it should turn out, the technology does not get implemented properly in operation," said Wu Yixiu, head of the environmental group Greenpeace's toxics campaign in East Asia.

In the public notice posted on its official microblogging account, the Boluo county government said it would "further gather reasonable and lawful suggestions and opinions from the public" and would "pick the project site scientifically and in accordance of the law."

Some of the demonstrators and eyewitnesses told The Associated Press by phone that yesterday's spontaneous protest in the town of Luoyang, the Boluo county seat, was orderly until police snatched banners from the protesters, dispersed crowds by force and dragged away demonstrators and spectators. They complained that the government had censored media coverage of the protest and banned those on public payrolls from joining it.

Calls to the local government and police in Boluo rang unanswered.

Photos provided by eyewitnesses and those circulating in China's social media showed protesters holding up banners opposing the incinerator as they marched through Luoyang's streets, despite periodical rain showers.

The protesters said the crowds also shouted slogans such as "Protect the homeland" and "Refuse trash."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOLUO

CHEN

EAST ASIA

GOVERNMENT

GREENPEACE

GUANGDONG

LUOYANG

PUBLIC

WU YIXIU

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