By Katie Nelson
Protesters rally against a proposed PX plant in Yunnan.
A young woman in Chengdu who created a White House petition on May 7 calling for international attention to hazards posed by a 40 billion yuan petrochemical plant in Pengzhou was left severely shaken after being contacted by police and told to delete the petition shortly, the South China Morning Post reports.
“Please delete the petition,” a security agent told the blogger. The blogger, who did not want to be named, told the South China Morning Post that the agent had tracked her down from her registration information on Weibo and invited her to “tea”, an euphemism for a police interrogation. The agent had insisted that she withdraw the post from the White House website, she said.
However, the White House website does not allow users to delete their petitions once posted. “Fearing retaliation,” the woman took to her Weibo to seek help.
“Help needed! Will someone please tell me how to delete a White House petition? The police have talked to me, and I am scared,” she posted.
The Weibo post was then deleted by censors two days later.
The Pengzhou plant, built about 20 kilometers away from the Sichuan capital, will reportedly process 10 million tons of crude oil and produce 800,000 tons of ethylene annually. Residents of the city have long-been concerned about the harms the plant could pose and about its proximity to an earthquake fault line.
On May 4, thousands of police officers and security agents were present in Chengdu in a reported attempt to “scare away” a protest against the plant that was rumored to take place.
May 4 marked the 5th anniversary of a 2008 protest, a “walk” against the same Pengzhou project during its earlier construction phase, SCMP reports:
Rewards were offered to printing shops for tips about customers making flyers for the project or planning protests. Emergency meetings were called at the weekend in offices of private and state-owned enterprises, where employees were told to stay to keep off the streets. Even schools were opened on Saturday to keep students out of “trouble”.
Netizens voicing out against the project are being censored online, as well.
Xiao Xuehui and Ran Yunfei, renowned Chengdu scholars and firm opponents of the project, had their Sina Weibo accounts deleted last week by censors after protesting vehemently online.
Another outspoken voice of the project, a Chengdu native who now lives in Guangzhou, said four security agents from Chengdu had flown to Guangzhou to track her down, after visiting her 80-year-old father in Chengdu. Luckily, the address they had was an outdated one.
However, Chinese netizens won’t be silenced. The woman’s White House petition against the plant has been joined by new and absurd petitions on the same website, including one to “standardize bean curd jelly in the salty variety”.