The city of Qingyuan in Guangdong has reconsidered its plan to build a waste incinerator plant at a local village, following mass protests and clashes between demonstrators and police.

Thousands of local residents have protested against the plan for several days, and authorities deployed large numbers of riot police to counter the protests. Residents in the town of Feilaixia also went on strike, abstaining from work and school for several days.

YouTube video

Villagers started protesting against the plan at the beginning of the month by hanging banners, according to Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily. Protests escalated this week, starting Sunday, when Feilaixia residents marched to the Qingyuan municipal government offices, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia.

Video shot by eyewitnesses on Monday and sent to RFA showed police – some with riot shields and helmets – hitting villagers with batons. Other videos circulating online appeared to show police firing tear gas at protesters, with some demonstrators pushing over a police vehicle. One clip showed police pressing a protester to the ground and kicking him.

Residents ‘misled’

Although the government said in statements that the project was needed to handle the high volume of local waste, a local resident told Hong Kong broadcaster TVB that villagers were misled by the local government.

“When the project first came down, [the government] told us that it was an environmentally-friendly renewable energy plant, they did not say that it was a waste incinerator at the time.”

The government only announced that it was a waste incinerator after they had signed land acquisition agreements, the resident said. Villagers worried that the plant would emit toxic chemicals, pollute their water supply, and harm their health. The town of Feilaixia is located close to the Bei River, a tributary of the Pearl River.

qingyuan protest
Photos: Supplied to RFA.

Another resident told RFA that they did not trust the government to prevent the plant from emitting toxic chemicals.

The government announced it would scrap its plan to build the incinerator in Shili village in the town of Feilaixia at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, according to its social media accounts. It said that it made the decision after taking residents’ concerns into consideration. Crowds dispersed after the announcement was made, Apple Daily said.

The municipal government also said that it was not currently considering any other site for the project. It is unclear whether it may do so in the future, nor is it clear whether the project has been cancelled, or merely postponed.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.