Environmental protests are becoming one of the biggest forms of social unrest in China – latest protests took place on Thursday over plans to build a petrochemical plant in the city of Anning.
May 17, 2013 

The refinery, if it goes ahead, will process more than 10 million tonnes of crude oil a year and 500,000 tons of the industrial chemical paraxylene (PX). China is the world’s largest producer of PX which is used in the process of manufacturing plastic bottles and other products and is carcinogenic. According to some media reports, up to 2,500 people took to the streets today and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that arrests had been made.

The newspaper quoted a 24-year-old protester saying “I hope this can be a good beginning for a dialogue between citizens and the government on major decisions”. The protest was one of the top trending topics on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo and photos were posted of protesters wearing masks and waving banners.

This latest protest in Kunming is the second large protest in a week over environmental concerns about industrial manufacturing. Earlier this week up to a thousand people took to the streets in the Songjiang district of Shanghai against plans for a lithium battery factory amid concerns about water and air pollution. According to media reports, residents of the area marched peacefully chanting and holding signs saying “no factory here”. Yesterday, state media reported that the plant, which was to built by Hefei Guoxuan High-tech Power Energy Co Ltd, would not go ahead due to the public pressure.

"Everybody is texting the news, and there are plans for a celebration," a resident named Zhu was quoted by the China Daily newspaper and said that local people had viewed the plant as a safety hazard. We are delighted with the company’s decision because we love Songjiang and we want a safe and clean environment," she said.

The Chinese public are becoming increasing concerned about the state of their local environment and up to 80% believe that environmental protection should be a higher priority than economic development, according to a new survey. The survey, carried out by the Public Opinion Research Centre in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, measured the public’s attitudes towards environmental protection and how they rate the government’s performance.

Such protests appear to be often tolerated by the authorities and, like the Shanghai protests, are sometimes successful in their goals. Last October, a week-long series of protests in Ningbo in eastern China by thousands of residents was sucessful in stopping work on an oil and petrochemical complex. The frequency of protests is rising as China’s increasingly affluent and middle-class society becomes more aware of environmental issues. The number of environmental protests rose by 120% from 2010 to 2011, according to Yang Chaofei, the vice-chairman of the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences.

Yang a told a lecture organized by the Standing Committee of the National’s People’s Congress on the social impact of environmental problems that the number of environmental ‘mass incidents’ has grown an average of 29% annually from 1996 to 2011. He said that the number of incidents which involve concerns about dangerous chemicals and heavy metal pollution have risen since 2010.

The results of the new survey indicate that the number of such incidents is not likely to decrease any time soon. Nearly half of those surveyed said the government should spend more on environmental protection and over 60% of residents said government information about environmental protection is not transparent. And in a clear sign that the Chinese public is not going to let their voices go unheard, 78% of those surveyed said that they will participate in protests if pollution facilities are planned near their homes.

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has unveiled his latest work, a map of China made from baby formula tins, in response to fears surrounding milk safety in China
May 17, 2013

Weiwei, whose 81 days of detention in 2011 sparked international outcry, has regularly criticized the government for ignoring the rule of law and the rights of Chinese citizens.

In his latest work, the dissident artist has arranged more than 1,800 large tins of milk powder from seven popular brands in the shape of a huge map of China.

Fears about milk safety were reignited in 2008 when at least six children died and 300,000 fell ill after drinking milk formula laced with industrial melamine.

Since the scandal many Chinese parents have taken to importing milk powder from foreign countries.

Weiwei said: “A country like this can put a satellite into space but it can’t put a safe bottle teat into a child’s mouth. I think it’s extremely absurd. This is a most fundamental assurance of food, but people actually have to go to another region to obtain this kind of thing. I think it’s a totally absurd phenomenon.”

The “milk map” has gone on display in Hong Kong, which had to restrict the amount of milk powder brought back to mainland China after parents flocked to the former British colony to stock up.

More than 30 million mainland Chinese visited Hong Kong last year, almost four times the city’s population, causing concern about the ability of the city’s infrastructure to cope. Complaints of milk powder shortages and rocketing prices were also reported.

Speaking in response to the Chinese “run” on Hong Kong’s milk supply, Weiwei said: “I have heard of drug trafficking before, but when a country has milk powder smuggling instead of drug smuggling, I think this is a devastating sign.”

The Chinese government has tried to reassure people that milk powder and dairy products in China are now safe and rigorously tested, but lax regulatory enforcement remains a problem.

In 2004, at least 13 babies in the central Anhui province died after drinking fake milk powder that had no nutritional value. A government health probe in 2008 showed 20 per cent of dairy companies had produced batches of milk containing melamine, an industrial chemical added to milk to seem like it has a higher protein content. In 2011, three children died and 35 people became ill after drinking nitrite-tainted milk in China’s northwestern Gansu province.

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Obama Administration fiercely protective over drones; blocks Chinese company from wind-farming
September 29, 2012
For the first time in 22 years, a US President has ordered a foreign company to abandon an American investment. President Obama blocked a Chinese company from developing a wind farm in Oregon, citing its proximity to a naval base that tests drones.
On Friday, Obama ordered Ralls Corporation, a company owned by Chinese nationals, to liquidate its holdings in a wind farm purchased earlier this year. The US President justified the decision through a rarely used authority provided to his office by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). Ralls is connected to the Sany Group, China’s largest construction equipment manufacturer. The wind farm in question was slated to be built near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in northern Oregon, which has been used as a testing ground for US fighter jets and drones. 
The CFIUS revealed their investigation into Ralls in September, after it announced its purchase of local assets earlier this year with the stated intent of developing the wind farms. Ralls did not voluntarily report its purchase to the CFIUS, but the committee has the authority to review all foreign purchases in the US.
On Friday, President Obama shut the project down: "There is credible evidence that leads me to believe" that Ralls, Sany and the two Sany executives who own Ralls "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," Obama said in statement accompanying the order.
Neither the White House nor the CFIUS specified the nature of the alleged national security risks.
Presidential intervention based on CFIUS reports is rare. The last time a US President intervened was in 1990, when President George H. W. Bush voided the sale of Seattle-based MAMCO Manufacturing to a Chinese agency.
The move comes at a risky time for US-China trade relations, and also during the run-up to the US presidential election in November. Obama’s opponents have criticized him as being soft on China, and the order could be a way for Obama to deflect those charges by appearing tough on China in a one-time decision, without setting a precedent that could damage trade relations.
“The President’s action demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to protecting national security while maintaining the United States’ longstanding policy on open investment,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement following the order. “The President’s decision is specific to this transaction and is not a precedent with regard to any other foreign direct investment from China or any other country.”
The Treasury Department’s statement claimed that “The wind farm sites are all within or in the vicinity of restricted air space.” However, Ralls was quoted in a Reuters report as saying that only one of its four wind farms are in restricted airspace, despite the blanket order by the CFIUS for Ralls to divest itself of all four sites. Lawyers representing Ralls also argued that a Danish and a German company both operate wind farms in the area as well.
“The project poses no national security threat whatsoever, and the President’s order offers no explanation otherwise,”Ralls’ lawyer Tim Kia said in a statement. “The president’s order is without justification, as scores of other wind turbines already operate in the area where Ralls’s project is located.” 
The Chinese company now has 90 days to divest itself of all its holdings in the four projects.
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Obama Administration fiercely protective over drones; blocks Chinese company from wind-farming

September 29, 2012

For the first time in 22 years, a US President has ordered a foreign company to abandon an American investment. President Obama blocked a Chinese company from developing a wind farm in Oregon, citing its proximity to a naval base that tests drones.

On Friday, Obama ordered Ralls Corporation, a company owned by Chinese nationals, to liquidate its holdings in a wind farm purchased earlier this year. The US President justified the decision through a rarely used authority provided to his office by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). Ralls is connected to the Sany Group, China’s largest construction equipment manufacturer. The wind farm in question was slated to be built near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in northern Oregon, which has been used as a testing ground for US fighter jets and drones. 

The CFIUS revealed their investigation into Ralls in September, after it announced its purchase of local assets earlier this year with the stated intent of developing the wind farms. Ralls did not voluntarily report its purchase to the CFIUS, but the committee has the authority to review all foreign purchases in the US.

On Friday, President Obama shut the project down: "There is credible evidence that leads me to believe" that Ralls, Sany and the two Sany executives who own Ralls "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," Obama said in statement accompanying the order.

Neither the White House nor the CFIUS specified the nature of the alleged national security risks.

Presidential intervention based on CFIUS reports is rare. The last time a US President intervened was in 1990, when President George H. W. Bush voided the sale of Seattle-based MAMCO Manufacturing to a Chinese agency.

The move comes at a risky time for US-China trade relations, and also during the run-up to the US presidential election in November. Obama’s opponents have criticized him as being soft on China, and the order could be a way for Obama to deflect those charges by appearing tough on China in a one-time decision, without setting a precedent that could damage trade relations.

“The President’s action demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to protecting national security while maintaining the United States’ longstanding policy on open investment,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement following the order. “The President’s decision is specific to this transaction and is not a precedent with regard to any other foreign direct investment from China or any other country.”

The Treasury Department’s statement claimed that “The wind farm sites are all within or in the vicinity of restricted air space.” However, Ralls was quoted in a Reuters report as saying that only one of its four wind farms are in restricted airspace, despite the blanket order by the CFIUS for Ralls to divest itself of all four sites. Lawyers representing Ralls also argued that a Danish and a German company both operate wind farms in the area as well.

“The project poses no national security threat whatsoever, and the President’s order offers no explanation otherwise,”Ralls’ lawyer Tim Kia said in a statement. “The president’s order is without justification, as scores of other wind turbines already operate in the area where Ralls’s project is located.” 

The Chinese company now has 90 days to divest itself of all its holdings in the four projects.

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Victory for protesters in Shifang, China!
July 08, 2012
Before last Monday, Shifang, a city in southwestern China, was mostly known to outsiders as the producer of handmade cigars enjoyed by Mao Zedong and other top Communist leaders. After Monday, the city’s more traditional reputation was quickly eclipsed by a new one for the 21st century: It became the site of a massive grassroots protest aided by Chinese social media like Weibo, an equivalent to Twitter.
On Friday, June 29,  concerned Shifang citizens, who were reportedly caught by surprise by the announcement, began spreading awareness of the plant, distributing pamphlets across the city:

Citizens of Shifang, please save our hometown!! The city of Shifang is already a ‘cancer village,’ and now they are going to build that heavy metal industrial molybdenum-copper alloy plant. We are strongly opposed to it. This is our home. Protecting it is our responsibility. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment!! (Translation from Ministry of Tofu)

Thousands took to the streets two days later, gathering in the public square and in front of government buildings throughout Sunday evening to express their concern over the chemicals that would be produced by the plant.
On Monday, local riot police were ordered to move in and were caught on film and video doing their job: turning tear gas and batons against defiant participants, some of whom reportedly grew disorderly in response. The police returned again the next day, and continued their attempts to disperse the growing crowds.
On Tuesday evening, the local government conceded by posting a message saying that the refinery project would be shelved. At 11 p.m. that night, the majority of arrested protesters were released, and on Wednesday, explicit criticism of the local officials and support for the protesters came in the form of an editorial in the official state-run English newspaper, The Global Times:

It is in such circumstances that local governments should earnestly deal with every single industrial project that carries environmental concerns. They should tell the truth to the public, rather than harbor the illusion that public opinion can be controlled when it comes to environmental issues.

On Thursday, the vilified top official in Shifang was officially punished with a demotion, and a new party secretary was announced as his replacement, a mere four days after the start of the protests. This was a decided victory for what had begun as a seemingly simple “not in my backyard” protest but eventually became a symbol for China’s complex balancing act between economic growth and environmental concerns, as well as another positive sign that Chinese leadership is becoming more responsive to local concerns — so long as the story makes it to Weibo. Time will tell, however, whether the refinery project has been permanently cancelled or whether it will be re-started once the furor dies down, as has apparently happened in other cities.
Source

Victory for protesters in Shifang, China!

July 08, 2012

Before last Monday, Shifang, a city in southwestern China, was mostly known to outsiders as the producer of handmade cigars enjoyed by Mao Zedong and other top Communist leaders. After Monday, the city’s more traditional reputation was quickly eclipsed by a new one for the 21st century: It became the site of a massive grassroots protest aided by Chinese social media like Weibo, an equivalent to Twitter.

On Friday, June 29,  concerned Shifang citizens, who were reportedly caught by surprise by the announcement, began spreading awareness of the plant, distributing pamphlets across the city:

Citizens of Shifang, please save our hometown!! The city of Shifang is already a ‘cancer village,’ and now they are going to build that heavy metal industrial molybdenum-copper alloy plant. We are strongly opposed to it. This is our home. Protecting it is our responsibility. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment!! (Translation from Ministry of Tofu)

Thousands took to the streets two days later, gathering in the public square and in front of government buildings throughout Sunday evening to express their concern over the chemicals that would be produced by the plant.

On Monday, local riot police were ordered to move in and were caught on film and video doing their job: turning tear gas and batons against defiant participants, some of whom reportedly grew disorderly in response. The police returned again the next day, and continued their attempts to disperse the growing crowds.

On Tuesday evening, the local government conceded by posting a message saying that the refinery project would be shelved. At 11 p.m. that night, the majority of arrested protesters were released, and on Wednesday, explicit criticism of the local officials and support for the protesters came in the form of an editorial in the official state-run English newspaper, The Global Times:

It is in such circumstances that local governments should earnestly deal with every single industrial project that carries environmental concerns. They should tell the truth to the public, rather than harbor the illusion that public opinion can be controlled when it comes to environmental issues.

On Thursday, the vilified top official in Shifang was officially punished with a demotion, and a new party secretary was announced as his replacement, a mere four days after the start of the protests. This was a decided victory for what had begun as a seemingly simple “not in my backyard” protest but eventually became a symbol for China’s complex balancing act between economic growth and environmental concerns, as well as another positive sign that Chinese leadership is becoming more responsive to local concerns — so long as the story makes it to Weibo. Time will tell, however, whether the refinery project has been permanently cancelled or whether it will be re-started once the furor dies down, as has apparently happened in other cities.

Source