In China the Whistle Blower is not the Enemy of…, but Leads the People

Unlike Ibsen’s famous Enemy of the People, in which the town pharmacist blows the whistle on chemical pollutant of local “health water,” and is jeered from community conversations, the folks of China’s Ningbo City welcome the messengers of bad-news and rally to stop the bad guys from implementing expansion of a petrochemical plant.


 Officials in the coastal city of Ningbo, China, promised on Sunday night to halt the expansion of a petrochemical plant after thousands of demonstrators clashed with the police during three days of protests that spotlighted the public’s mounting discontent with industrial pollution.

 …The protests, which began last week when farmers blocked a road near the refinery, grew over the weekend as thousands of students and middle-class residents converged on a downtown square carrying handmade banners and wearing surgical masks painted with skull and bones.

On Saturday, the demonstrations turned violent when riot police fired tear gas and began to beat and drag away protesters. At one point, according to people who were there, marchers tossed bricks and bottles at the police. At least 100 people were detained, according to some estimates, although most were later released.

The project, an $8.8 billion expansion of a refinery owned by the state-run behemoth Sinopec, was eagerly backed by the local government, which has been promoting a vast industrial zone outside Ningbo, a city of 3.4 million people in Zhejiang Province. Residents were particularly unnerved by one major component of the project: the production of paraxylene, a toxic petrochemical known as PX that is a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of polyester, paints and plastic bottles. Many residents contend that the concentration of polluting factories in the Ningbo Chemical Industrial Zone has led to a surge in cancer and other illnesses.

Protesters against the Sinopec petrochemical plant in Ningbo, China, October, 2012

This is not the first confrontation Chinese citizens have fought back against local boosters and party chief’s planning chemical pollution at the expense of the population.

A PX plant was stopped in Xiamen in 2007, another was challenged in Chengdu in 2008 and  in Dalian in 2011,

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