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Cablegate: Background of Recent Fujian Chemical Plant Protests

VZCZCXYZ3549
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGZ #0139 0650842
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050842Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6951
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS GUANGZHOU 000139

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP/CM, OES/PCI, AND DRL
EPA FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PHUM ECON PGOV EINV TW CH
SUBJECT: Background of Recent Fujian Chemical Plant Protests

REF: 07 Guangzhou 1297 and previous

1. (U) Summary: Fears that a proposed chemical plant could endanger
their livelihood spurred approximately 10,000 residents of Dongshan
Island, Fujian Province, to protest the project, according to media
reports. The protests, which began February 29 and culminated in
the vandalism of local government buildings and clashes with police
three days later, were possibly timed to coincide with National
People's Congress (NPC) and National People's Political Consultative
Conference (NPPCC) meetings in Beijing. A government-imposed media
blackout and the deployment of armed police could signal officials'
growing impatience with grassroots activism. End Summary.

A Tale of Two Cities
----------------------

2. (U) Confronted by organized protests from residents of Xiamen
(reftel), the Fujian Provincial Party Committee decided in late 2007
to move a proposed massive paraxylene (PX) chemical plant to Zhangpu
County's Gulei Peninsula. Though peninsula residents will receive
compensation for the effects of the project, residents of Dongshan
Island, which is located 10 miles from the peninsula, will not,
according to the Taiwan-based United Daily News. The Dongshan
economy relies heavily on fishing and tourism, and residents are
concerned that discharges form the PX plant could destroy their
livelihood.

Media Suppression
-----------------

3. (U) The timing of the protests could have been intended to raise
awareness of Dongshan residents' plight, considering that Fujian
provincial leaders were in Beijing to attend the NPC and NPPCC. The
United Daily News reported that Fujian authorities had sought to
mitigate the impact of the protests by imposing a media blackout.
Post confirmed that nearly all online discussions regarding the
protests had been removed from the internet, and it appears that no
domestic media have featured stories about the incident.

Comment: The Future of Environmental Activism?
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) Violence and injury not withstanding, the Dongshan protests
have highlighted the effectiveness of activists in mobilizing broad
demographics in grassroots environmental-protection campaigns. If
the Dongshan protests prove successful, environmental activists
would doubtless be emboldened, and would likely expand their
operations. (A petrochemical plant planned for the Nansha area
south of Guangzhou has the potential to become the target of such
protests, though as yet there have been no indications of
opposition.) However, the government's use of traditional tactics
-- including media blackouts and the deployment of baton-wielding
police -- suggests growing official inflexibility, especially after
the government's public defeat in Xiamen.

GOLDBERG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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