What you need to know
A large environmental protest broke out in China and put a controversial proposal on hold.
By Brian Hioe
Environmental protests in Yangluo (陽邏), a residential district in the Chinese city of Wuhan, have garnered international media attention.
Almost 10,000 residents were protesting against the local government’s proposal to construct a waste-to-energy conversion plant. The protests lasted a few days since June 28 and have sparked violent clashes with riot police and the deployment of armored vans.
While the Yangluo protests have mostly been silenced by both police force and media censorship over the past weekend, the district government had agreed to listen to the public before moving forward.
Although the plant is promised to reduce landfills by burning trash to provide renewable energy, protesters cast serious doubt on its safety and environmental impact. Some have demanded not only the reversal of the project but also the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) altogether.
Video recordings on social media have shown riot police attacking protesters with batons as well as protesters throwing objects at the police. News of the protests circulated widely on Weibo and became a trending topic before the posts were censored.
Some streets and local businesses were closed by the local government due to the protest, with reports of plainclothes police deployed to blend in with the protestors.
Yangluo residents were angered into protest by the Wuhan city government’s sudden decision to construct a waste-to-energy incinerator. The project contract was awarded to a company only formed in April 2019, suggesting corruption, and the construction had allegedly started without consultation with local residents.
In a June 28 Weibo statement, the city government claims that it would only proceed with the project under public consensus. The Yangluo residents, however, continued to protest because of their anger against police brutality. The government has reportedly calmed the unrest over the weekend with riot police patrolling the streets. Locals told BBC that some protesters were detained, but an exact number could not be verified.
Environmental protests are not uncommon in China. Hangzhou, for example, had a more violent protest against a planned incinerator in 2014. But these instances are often not widely reported on international media given a lack of available information.
Wuhan demonstrations have benefited in international coverage due to their proximity to the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong. The media have mostly framed the unrest in Wuhan as another issue that the Chinese government has on its plate. Though the two protests are unrelated, the CCP may feel the need to put a firm stop on them if they continue to make international headlines.
If Hong Kong’s protests have any influence on the events in Wuhan, it may not necessarily be a positive one.
To suppress the international attention, the CCP might be driven to take more aggressive measures in Wuhan than it otherwise would have.
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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)