China Faces Large Protests Over Waste Incinerators

China Faces Large Protests Over Waste Incinerators
示意圖,非實際事件現場。Photo Credit: Reuters / 達志影像

What you need to know

China’s commitment to building garbage incinerators is facing strong and constant opposition from residents. In Zhaoqing, the government used violence and a media blackout to suppress its opponents.

Tens of thousands of residents in Zhaoqing City in southern China have protested against a plan to build a garbage incinerator. The protesters clashed with armed police and were eventually dispersed.

The local government plans to build a waste incinerator in a village which is 1 km away from the Xi River, the main water source for cities like Zhaoqing and Guangzhou. Many locals in Zhaoqing are afraid that the incinerator will pollute drinking water.

Advocates in Zhaoqing, who told officials they were organizing a food festival, mobilized thousands of people to strike and join in the protest.

On the morning of July 3, many residents gathered on a road in Lubuzhen, Zhaoqing, yelling “protest” and holding posters with slogans like “Boycott Garbage Incineration.” The campaign saw about 50,000 protestors at its peak.

As always, most state-run media in China have been silent on the event. However, posts on social media platforms like Weibo, Weixin, and Twitter, have reported on the protest.

Video footage from the scene show helicopters hovering above the crowd, and scores of armed police wielding batons and shields to disperse the protesters.

The local government of Zhaoqing blocked all news reporting on the incident and claims that “troublemakers” led a crowd of only 1,300 “unreasonable” people to charge the Lubuzhen government building and attack the police, causing some injuries.

Before the protest, local authorities announced the cancellation of land requisition for a waste incinerator. Locals did not believe the officials. On July 3, officials blocked a highway near planned incinerator site, saying the road was damaged by a landslide and needed repairing.

Locals told BBC that two years ago, the government attempted to build an incinerator in the same area but was foiled by strong protests.

Lin, a local resident, told The Associated Press that the local population were very worried about water pollution since Xi River is the main water source for many people around the area. In addition, they also want to avoid air pollution and other environmental concerns.

Recent protests against waste incinerators

Incineration has been a preferred approach to waste disposal in China since its first incinerator was launched in Shenzhen in 1998. Most incineration plants are located in the more prosperous and highly populated areas of the east coast.

There has been fierce opposition from local residents living in the vicinity of an incinerator across the past decade.

Last month, more than 100,000 people in Xiantao City, Hubei Province, protested against an incinerator. In response to the campaign, Xiantao City Mayor Chou Wenhsia (周文霞) posted an online video asking residents to stay calm.

On April 26, thousands of villagers in Totiao Village, Hunan Province, also demonstrated against the local government forcing the building of a large garbage incinerator near the area.

Over the past two years, residents in Luoding City and Boluo County, Guangdong have also protested against similar projects.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White