Gov't acts on factory pollution after protest

Updated: 2011-09-19 06:54

By Wu Yiyao (China Daily)

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Villagers hold angry protest, smash offices and vehicles

JIAXING, Zhejiang - Environmental authorities in Haining, East China's Zhejiang province, announced on Sunday the actions that are being taken to prevent further pollution from a solar panel producer, following angry protests by villagers.

More than 500 people from the nearby Hongxiao village began gathering outside the Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co Ltd (ZJS) factory on Thursday night, demanding an explanation of large-scale fish deaths in a local river last month, according to the Haining people's government.

The company, whose parent is a New York-listed firm, produces mono- and multi-crystalline photovoltaic panels, cells and wafers, which are sold around the world, according to its official website.

Protesters overturned eight company vehicles and destroyed the company's offices before police arrived.

Additionally, four police cars were damaged as the officers dispersed the crowd, according to the government.

The factory's waste disposal system has failed pollution tests since April, according to Chen Hongming, the deputy head of Haining's environmental protection bureau.

The bureau had warned the factory before the protest, but the factory did not take effective measures to control the pollution, Chen said.

Before the protest, a 33-year-old resident of Hongxiao village identified only as Sun posted a comment on the Internet saying that the latest health examination of the villagers showed that among 3,300 people, six were diagnosed as having leukemia and another 31 had other kinds of cancer.

Local health authorities subsequently said that Sun's post was inaccurate, as the number of villagers who were diagnosed with cancer was four in 2010 and two in 2011.

Sun was detained by police for dissemination of false information, which caused considerable repercussions, according to the local government.

Also, three employees of ZJS were detained on Saturday for interfering with interviews by two reporters from the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang television station and damaging their video cameras on Thursday.

Police are still investigating the ZJS employees' actions.

The fish kills were related to contamination of the river near the factory, according to the local environmental protection authorities.

The Haining people's government will step up its investigation into the pollution and water quality monitoring near the factory.

Further, production safety inspection authorities ordered the factory to stop production, according to a press release from the Haining people's government regarding a news conference held on Saturday afternoon.

"Villagers told me that they smelled a strong odor as the factory emits yellowish smoke between 1 am and 3 am, and we are going to investigate to see if it is true," said an official with Yuanhua county, where Hongxiao village is located.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday.

It is not easy to gather evidence and the investigation might not go smoothly, said the official.

The official said the local government has sent teams to meet with villagers, village cadres and enterprise owners to understand their demands.

A villager who would only give his name as Liu said he and his family are worried that their crops might be polluted and could not be sold.

Liu said he did not join the protest, but he hoped that the demonstrators' voices were heard.

"I know that some protesters also grabbed money and things from the company on the past two nights, and some of them were not even villagers. They were just being selfish and breaking the law.

"On the other hand, I also want to live without worrying," said Liu.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/19/2011 page4)