For the second time this month, anger over a proposed state-run petrochemical plant. Official reports say there were hundreds. But overseas journalists report that almost two thousand people protested here in Kunming on Thursday, outside the government headquarters of Yunnan Province.
The petrochemical plant is already in its final stages, but protestors want it to be shut down. It's being built in nearby Anning city by China National Petroleum Corp. It’ll make products like gasoline, diesel and fertilizer. The plant owners say it will boost the economy and provide jobs to Kunming residents.
But people here are less worried about their economy than they are about the dangers of Paraxylene, or PX. This oily hydrocarbon is another product the factory plans to make. It’s a dangerous carcinogen and potentially fatal if ingested.
Officials say the plant will meet environmental and safety standards. But residents don’t believe them. The plant is slated to process 10 million tons of oil per year, and authorities have kept the environmental assessment report a secret.
During the protest, Kunming’s Mayor Li Wenrong came and promised to take public opinion into account and hold public meetings by next Wednesday.
Li said there were no arrests during the protest, but online reports say that some protestors were taken away by police.
This latest protest is just a microcosm of citizen frustration over what many see as a disregard for China’s environment and public health. Protests like these have been happening all over the country, and are becoming more frequent as living standards rise.