Environmental Pollution led to Mass Protests

Zhang Kai 

        The growth of market economy in China has led to serious environmental pollutions. Here are some evidences. 

Air Pollution

According to a research conducted by the Institute of Environment of Renmin University of China and other institutions in March, air quality of nearly 90% of cities in China was bad or very bad. Moreover, according to a report issued by Tsinghua University and Asia Development Bank, the air quality in China was getting worse. If we take the air quality standard of World Health Organization, less than 1% of 500 big cities in China meet the basic standard.

The origins of air pollution are: industrial emission, vehicle emission, and coal burning. These led to a lot of emission of CO2 and Nitric oxide. Over the last 30 years, China’s energy demand has increased. Now it has become the country of the largest energy consumption in the world. The PPM (Parts Per Million) of pollutants after coal burning is higher than the international standard. It exceeds 14 times of European standard; meanwhile, the standard in China is not strict enough. Chemical industries such as just concentrate on profit-making but release a lot of PM2.5, which bring harm to human body.

Unfortunately, people who breathe in polluted air become sick. According to Zhong Nanshan, an expert of respiratory, polluted air damages heart, brain, blood vessels and nerve system. In Beijing, the number of lung cancer has increased by 60% for the last ten years. Air pollution is one of the main causes.

Based on the 2012 Report of Registered Tumor Cases, both incidence rate and mortality rate are increasing. Every year there are 3.12 million new cases of cancer. Every year 2.7 million people die of cancer (quoted from Ming Po dated 24 February). Now, there are 247 cancer villages in China. This is closely related to air pollution which easily induces heart diseases. For example, the Mayor of Hangzhou City suddenly died of heart attack when he attended the Conference in Beijing. At the time, Beijing was full of toxic fog. Xi Jinping asked the representatives to stay calm but he did not mention how the government could resolve the problem. In addition, the large volume of PM2.5 can bring harm to young people. Zhong Nanshan suggested not to organize sports activities such as 3- kilometer running race, and the body quality of students of primary schools and secondary schools has degraded. Furthermore, Yale University released a report on the index of environmental protection, stating that in 2012, China ranked 116 of 132 countries in the world. It clearly showed that air pollution is very serious in China. 

Water Pollution

        In China, one third of water resources is underground water. Now, 90% of underground water is polluted, among which 60% is seriously polluted. Worse still, some statistics disclosed that 97% of underground water of cities was polluted. This phenomenon even spread to the countryside.        According to 2012 Report on Marine Environment issued by the State Oceanic Administration of China, the risks of oil spill and toxic chemical spill have increased. More than 17 million metric tons of pollutants from the monitored rivers flowed into the sea. An area of 170 thousand square meters of water has not yet met the standard quality of seawater. In recent 5 years, there are tremendous red tide and soil salinization that have never happened so frequently before. In a word, 80% of coastal ecology is terribly bad. 

Worse still, citizens get sick after drinking polluted water. For example, in Jinling Town of Zibo City of Shandong Province, surrounded by layers of factories, dwellers were forced to drink the polluted underground water. Many dwellers got different kinds of cancer. It was sadly named as “Small Town of Death”. Nearly every day a funeral is held. In other places of Shandong Province such as Weifang and Dongying, there were the outbreak of a series of pollution events which shocked the whole country. The polluted underground water was penetrating paddy field, then human and animals undoubtedly got sick after having polluted rice.

        Moreover, animals and poultry are badly affected after drinking the polluted water. For example, in Xiaozhu Zhuang of Cang County of Hebei Province, nearly 800 chickens died of the polluted underground water. 

The Authorities Can Do Nothing

The main reason of air pollution and water pollution is that the local authorities pursue GDP and profit-making projects and ignore any ecological consequence. Against this background, the State Council issued Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2012 on 14 May. In the Chapter of “Protection of Human Rights in Ecological Progress”, it states that “Citizens rights to live in clean and hygienic environment have been further protected. Environmental assessment and monitoring have been further strengthened, which cover routine monitoring of environmental elements, such as surface water, air, acid disposition, impact of sand and dust storms, drinking-water source areas, offshore seas, urban noise and ecosystems, supervisory monitoring of pollution sources and early-warning monitoring of emergencies. National and local environment monitoring networks that cover all environmental elements have basically been established in China, and an environmental supervision system has been further enhanced” (quoted from Wen Wei Po dated 15 May).

        However, this report will not bring any positive effect on environmental protection. Local authorities are not willingly to resolve pollution at the ground level.


Only People Fighting For Environmental Protection

        The Government not only does not protect environment, but also approves the setting up of many chemical factories. In face of endangering health, people come together to oppose. Chen Jiping, general secretary of CPC of Law Society of China, remarked that in recent years, the main cause of mass events was environmental problem, rather than land confiscation. Many more people participated and it aroused much more influences. People are discontented after gathering some information of bad projects from the internet.

The following are protests about environmental pollution:

On 10 February, in Shuangyuan Village of Yushan County of Jiangxi Province, thousands of villagers protested that a local chemical factory polluted air and water, then they demolished the machinery of the factory.

On 25 February, citizens of Xianhe Township of Dongying City of Shandong Province demonstrated on the street and gathered in front of the building of the township government. They complained that a local chemical factory emitted toxic gas which led to more than 30 thousand people being poisoned. Lots of people were hospitalized. They urged to close the factory.

On 12 March, in Songgang Township of Shenzhen City, lots of dwellers gathered in front of the government building, protesting against a pollution treatment factory which emitted toxic gas. They urged to close the factory.

On 1 May, Shanghai residents gathered in front of the government building to protest against Guoxuan High-Tech Power Energy Company. On the same day, thousands of residents of Ningbo city of Zhejiang Province protested against the local mega chemical industrial project. Unfortunately, they were repressed by the local authorities.

On 5 May, thousands of residents of Kuanming City of Yunan Province demonstrated on the streets, protesting against the chemical paraxylene (PX) project of China National Petroleum Corporation. Then on 17 May, thousands of protesters again went to demonstration, urged for environmental evaluation, and shouted, “Roll out, Refinery!”

On 11 May, in Dongqiao Township of Huian County of Fujian Province, nearly one thousand villagers protested against a highly polluted refinery of China Petrochemical Corporation through bay land confiscation by the local government. They took hostages of the township head and even the county head, in exchange for the release of dozens of village protesters who were arrested by the police.

On the same day, in the Songjiang District of Shanghai, there appeared the third time of demonstration against Guoxuan High-Tech Power Energy Company. At last, the Company announced it would withdraw investment in plans to build a new lithium battery factory, as well as to return the land to the government. This is another victory of people’s protest against pollution and for environment protection.

In the long term, there will be more struggles, protests, and victories of environmental protections. Let people work together to fight for a better environment to live!

18 May 2013