Environment & Health Politics & Protest SinoBeat

Hundreds march in China to protest pollution, gov’t indifference

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Jiangxi Province this week to protest against industrial pollution and the government’s unwillingness to reign in big polluters.

Leping, a county-level city administered by the larger city of Jingdezhen, saw close to 1,000 local residents demonstrate on Wednesday evening. After assembling at 7:30pm, the demonstrators marched behind a banner that read, “Reject toxic air pollution, give us back a livable Leping!”

Leping protest

Protesters march in Leping. Photo: Weibo.

Leping protest

Protesters march in Leping. Photo: Weibo.

Leping protest

Protesters march in Leping. Photo: Weibo.

The demonstration concluded at around 9:00pm outside local government headquarters, but protesters have promised to return to the streets on Monday, August 10, for an even bigger show of force.

Leping protest

“We just want to live healthily!” A pamphlet passed among protesters calls for a second demonstration at 8:00pm the following Monday. Photo: Weibo.

“Since 2003, many chemical plants have moved into Leping one after the other,” local resident Ms Wang reportedly told Falun Gong-associated newspaper The Epoch Times. “There are over 40 now, and they indiscriminately emit industrial waste. The air in Leping is getting worse and worse and there’s often a terrible stench… We live far from the factories and can still smell it.”

“There are also more and more people with cancer. According to a doctor in [provincial capital] Nanchang, one in three cancer patients he treats is from Leping.”

Online, a web user wrote: “In Nanchang, every time they receive a cancer patient they ask, ‘are you from Leping?’ For our health, and to let the next generation breath in clean air, I believe we should unite and peacefully solve this problem!”

Leping protest

Leping locals encourage others to join the protest on their online “friends circle,” to return their hometown to a “pleasant, beautiful town” where “ordinary people live peaceful lives”. Photo: WeChat.

Leping’s Tashan Industrial Park is located less than five kilometers from the city centre. Originally home to just two factories operated by the provincial government, the site is now home to at least 33, according to media reports—including Asia’s largest herbicide plant.

According to reports, the surrounding environment has been degregaded to the extent that several nearby villages have become “cancer villages”—communities where cancer rates soar far above the national average.

In 2013, Chinese academics and NGOs estimated that the country was home to 459 “cancer villages.” Typically surrounded by factories that contaminate both the air and local water supply, the villages can be found in every Chinese province and region except far-western Qinghai and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Jingdezhen is famed as the home of China’s imperial kilns. For centuries, the city’s craftsmen produced the prized porcelain in the empire, destined for the chambers of the Forbidden City and the dinner tables of noble houses worldwide.

Hundreds march in China to protest pollution, gov't indifference