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Cablegate: Stalemate at Wastewater Plant Holds; Still No Communication

VZCZCXRO5709
RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL
RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGZ #0545/01 2580934
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150934Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0922
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0260
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0719
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0199
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0209
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0200
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0271
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0195
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE 0020
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC 0030
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0249
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0245
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5// 0018

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000545

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PHUM ECON PGOV CH
SUBJECT: Stalemate at Wastewater Plant Holds; Still no Communication
with Local Government

REF A: GUANGZHOU 534

GUANGZHOU 00000545 001.2 OF 002


(U) This document is sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet
distribution. Please protect accordingly.

1. (U) Summary: Local villagers continued to control a suspect
Quanzhou wastewater treatment plant (reftel) as of September 14. To
attract the attention of officials, villagers began filling
contaminated holding tanks with soil September 9. Authorities have
restricted inter-village communication by preventing five elderly
musicians from using musical instruments to signal neighboring
villages. Villagers dispute local press reports that officials have
made good-faith efforts to resolve the stalemate. The case of the
water treatment plant might have been raised in a recent Political
Consultative Conference meeting. Villagers are skeptical of
official claims that local environmental degradation is due to the
leaking deep-seawater pipe of a nearby chemical factory, not the
water treatment plant. Villagers await the findings of government
test reports, which they believe will bolster the protestors'
position. Post will continue to monitor the situation. End
summary.

Villagers Fill Tanks with Earth
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) With local officials unwilling to engage in direct contact
with villagers from Fengwei Township located near Quanzhou, Fujian
Province, regarding a suspect water treatment facility, the
villagers say they felt compelled to take action September 9 in an
attempt to attract official attention. Villagers say 700 to 800
villagers gathered and hauled dirt to the plant, then dumped it into
the wastewater. The villagers say they were able to fill
approximately one-fifth of the plant's holding tanks using this
method. While they do not know whether this action was successful
in catching the attention of authorities, they do know that it
piqued the interest of police; a handful of police personnel watched
the activity from a distance but made no effort to stop it.

Authorities Put End to Dissonant Chord
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) To gather residents of nearby villages for the dirt hauling
event as well as the August 31 protest (reftel), the villagers have
relied on audio signals from five senior citizens with musical
instruments. Villagers claim that two police officers now guard
each musicians' residence to prevent their elderly inhabitants from
exiting or using their instruments.

Media Inaccuracies
------------------

4. (SBU) Villagers dispute September 8 and 9 press reports claiming
that local officials have taken steps to hear and address the
concerns of villagers relating to the Quangang Wastewater Plant.
According to a September 8 report in the Quanzhou Evening News and a
release by the Xinhua News Agency the same day, the local district
government sent 20 teams to visit with local residents, understand
their concerns, and field their questions. Villagers say these
"teams" were low-ranking government workers with relatives in the
village who were called in and instructed to encourage the villagers
to stop protesting and return control of the wastewater plant to
local officials.

5. (SBU) The Quanzhou Evening News report also claimed that a team
of approximately 300 local officials had held meetings with
villagers, the local People's Congress, the Senior Citizen's
Association, and the People's Political Consultative Conference to
search for solutions. The report went on to claim that local
officials had issued two written documents responding to the
villagers' requests, but villagers say they have yet to see or meet
with any authoritative local officials; most officials, the
villagers believe, are still afraid to enter the village.

6. (SBU) Villagers said they had heard that delegates at a recent
Political Consultative Conference meeting did raise concerns about

GUANGZHOU 00000545 002.2 OF 002


the waste treatment plant. Among the concerns raised were the
plant's lack of capacity for handling industrial wastes and the need
for improved equipment and operations if the plant were required to
handle industrial wastes. The Xinhua release said the government
teams distributed a letter issued by the local government
apologizing for "irregularity" in the operation of the wastewater
plant and for using force against the villagers on August 31.
Villagers, though, say they have received contradictory messages:
one government notice claimed that the wastewater was smelly but not
harmful, while another notice said that the wastewater was heavily
polluted and would require advanced treatment.

Another Culprit? Or Misdirection?
----------------------------------

7. (SBU) The September 8 Quanzhou Evening News report claimed that
the local government had established five working groups, consisting
mostly of local officials, to address two problems: 1) the
pollution at the wastewater plant; and 2) the repair of a local
chemical company's deep seawater pipe that is reportedly leaking
sewage. According to the press report, the chemical plant is
located in Meizhou Bay -- not far from the wastewater plant -- and
produces alkali. Officials say the leaking deep seawater pipe was
discovered about the same time the problems with the wastewater
plant came to light. Officials claim it is the problem with the
deep seawater pipe, not the wastewater treatment plant, that has
negatively impacted the area's aquaculture farms.

8. (SBU) Villagers are highly skeptical of the official claims
regarding the seawater pipe. Villagers told us that after taking
control of the wastewater plant and shutting off the intake pipes,
industrial wastes -- including those from a number of tanneries --
were rerouted to another facility in Kuibi village. Villagers claim
that this overburdened pipelines running underneath Kuibi village
and resulted in a September 10 pipe rupture that caused industrial
wastes to bubble to the surface in Kuibi. Villagers claim that
government officials sent a tanker truck to collect the waste in
Kuibi and have ordered local tanneries to suspend operations. A
September 9 report on the China National Radio website said that
nine leather companies around the area had suspended operations, but
attributed the suspension to the government's effort to reduce
pressure on the villager-occupied Quangang Wastewater Plant.

9. (SBU) The posting on the China National Radio website also
claimed that the results of samples taken at the plant by a joint
inspection team consisting of personnel from the East-China
Inspection Center of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and
the Fujian Environmental Protection Department would be published as
soon as possible, hopefully containing recommendations that might
help reduce the smell and help neutralize the pollutants. Villagers
claim to have already received the "leaked" results of the sampling.
The results, they say, show that the wastewater at the plant
contains significant amounts of heavy metals.

GOLDBECK

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