By Shiv Malik for The Guardian
Officials in eastern China have cancelled a planned industrial waste pipeline project after up to 1,000 environmental demonstrators occupied a government office, overturned cars, destroyed computers and beat police officers.
The demonstration in the city of Qidong was the latest in a string of protests sparked by fears of environmental degradation.
Zhang Guohua, mayor of the eastern city of Nantong, announced the cancellation of the pipeline, which would have emptied waste water from a Japanese-owned paper factory via the coastal town of Qidong into the sea. It is the second industrial project to be cancelled in a month.
The decision came hours after about 1,000 protesters marched through the city of Qidong, about one hour north of Shanghai, shouting slogans against the pipeline.
Several protesters entered the city government’s main building and were seen smashing computers, overturning desks and throwing documents out of the windows to loud cheers from the crowd. Five cars and one minibus were also upended, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.
At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten bloody.
Environmental worries have stoked calls for expanded rights for citizens and greater consultation in the tightly controlled one-party state and come before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition this year.
The protest followed similar demonstrations against projects in the Sichuan town of Shifang earlier this month and in the cities of Dalian in the north-east and Haimen in southern Guangdong province in the past year.
The government in Shifang halted a multimillion-pound copper alloy plant project because it said there was insufficient public understanding and support after teargas was used to disperse protesters.
The Chinese government has vowed to clean up China’s skies and waterways and increasingly tried to appear responsive to complaints about pollution.
But environmental disputes pit citizens against local officials, whose aim is to lure fresh investment and revenue into their areas.