Residents of SW China city protest against foul air

Protest against pollution in a Sichuan city turns violent as residents demand the shutdown of factories blamed for pungent air

Hundreds of residents in a city in southwestern China have protested against foul air emanating from a chemical plant, the latest in a series of demonstrations against companies that are claimed to be damaging the environment.

According to reports, hundreds of people, perhaps up to a thousand, have taken to the streets of Neijiang City in Sichuan to demonstrate against the pungent air said to have become a daily occurrence in recent weeks.

Authorities in Weiyuan County said on Tuesday that the pungent odour was caused by a leak of liquid coolant at a porcelain factory, and had ordered a shutdown of the plant and an investigation.

The local police department said it had detained seven people who had spread rumours, damaged public property and used violence to hinder law enforcement.

Photos on the internet show clashes between protesters and riot police and a police car was seen turned on its side.

It’s hard to tell if such protests are becoming more commonplace in China, as many go unreported and discussion of incidents is often removed from news and social media sites by censors.

But a report commissioned by the Chinese government last week said pollution – and in particular smog – had the potential to cause social unrest unless environmental problems are dealt with effectively.

Local officials in Luoding, Guangdong, last week cancelled plans to build a new incinerator amid violent protests from residents. Elsewhere in China’s most populous province, at the weekend thousands of people demonstrated against plans for a new coal-fired power plant.