Top story on Weibo yesterday — tens of thousands of protestors clash with anti-riot police at the government headquarters in Shifang, Sichuan over plans to build a molybdenum copper plant.
According to the SCMP:
Yesterday’s protest was among the largest triggered by environmental concerns since tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Dalian , Liaoning , late last year. That protest forced the local government to temporarily suspend the building of a petrochemical plant.
Shifang authorities said that at least 13 people were injured in yesterday’s protest as police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds from government buildings and streets. Witnesses said many more were injured.
The crowds were still there close to midnight last night with some online postings claiming police were continuing to fire tear gas.
An official statement said some people had been petitioning the city government since a signing ceremony for the project on Saturday and hundreds of students and residents took to the streets on Sunday. The protest snowballed yesterday and turned violent. “Mayor Xu Guangyong and Deputy Mayor Zhang Daobin have responded to the protesters, saying that construction of the factory will be suspended as long as most of the public opposes it,” the statement said.
A witness who joined the protest said more than 10 trucks filled with anti-riot police had been deployed to the scene, and there were rumours authorities were sending more police to Shifang – a county-level city – from cities such as Chengdu .
“Many protesters were injured when police sprayed tear gas at the crowds, from teenage students to elderly residents,” she said.
Tania Branigan of The Guardian notes the local government later announced it would “temporarily” suspend the construction of the plant only to change its mind later on:
“The local government will definitely carry out supervision during the entire process of constructing the project. If the company fails in the environmental protection assessment, the local government would not allow it to go into production,” Xu Guangyong, mayor of Shifang, told protestors on Monday morning, the state-run China News Service reported.
But by Monday night, authorities had vowed to suspend construction of the 10.4 billion yuan (HK$12.7 billion) molybdenum-copper alloy factory by Shanghai-listed Sichuan Hongda.
And in an oh-so-predictable fashion, the local government is now on the hunt for ringleaders of the protest:
On its official micro blog, the Shifang government on Tuesday called on locals who have used the Internet, text messages and other means of “incitement” to “immediately stop their illegal activities”.
Public security officials will be lenient to people who surrender within three days for their roles in “incitement, planning and organizing the illegal assembly demonstrations and vandalizing”, the government promised.
But the rest would face harsher treatment.
“For those who refuse to surrender, upon investigation, the public security organs will severely punish them in accordance with the law,” it said, without adding what action lay in store.