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Cablegate: Quanzhou Officials Tell Their Side of the Wastewater

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RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGZ #0553/01 2640835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210835Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0931
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0264
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0728
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0203
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0213
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0204
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0276
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0199
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE 0022
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC 0032
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0253
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0249
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5// 0020

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000553

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: Quanzhou Officials Tell Their Side of the Wastewater
Treatment Plant Story

REF A: GUANGZHOU 545 AND PREVIOUS

GUANGZHOU 00000553 001.2 OF 002


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

1. (SBU) Summary: Quanzhou Foreign Affairs Office officials met
CongenOff without warning at Xiamen Airport September 18 and offered
to arrange meetings with local officials to discuss the continuing
standoff at a suspect wastewater treatment plant. Local officials
disputed villager claims that the treatment plant was the source of
elevated cancer rates in the area. Officials claim not to have
attempted to regain control of the facility because they do not want
to aggravate the situation. Officials appeared to contradict
themselves when discussing whether untreated waste had been
discharged directly into the sea. The government is unwilling to
relocate the plant. Villagers, who are being closely monitored, are
becoming increasingly hesitant to share information by telephone.
End summary.

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An Unexpected Escort
--------------------

2. (SBU) The Deputy Director of the Quanzhou Foreign Affairs Office
(FAO) unexpectedly met CongenOff at the Xiamen airport September 18
and invited him on the spot into a car for an unanticipated
discussion about a suspect wastewater treatment plant currently held
by villagers in Fujian's Fengwei Township (reftel). (Note: The
Consulate had not advised FAO of CongenOff's planned travel to
Xiamen. End note.) The FAO official noted that his office had
learned of the Consulate's interest in the situation and offered to
set up meetings with local government officials to help provide a
more complete picture of the situation.

Official Contradiction -- and Confirmation
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Quanzhou local government and officials from the
Environmental Protection Bureau September 20 both contradicted and
confirmed information about the wastewater treatment plant
previously received from villagers. Quangang District local Party
Committee Member and Information Section Head Lin Yaoping said that
although construction of the plant had been completed by the end of
2007, the facility was not put into operation until mid-August,
2009, due to delays in completing a network of feeder pipelines.
Lin asserted that, since the plant had not handled sewage before
mid-August, the facility could not have caused the alleged elevated
rates of cancer in the village.

4. (SBU) Lin contended that authorities had actively tried to reach
out to and communicate with the villagers. He said that 300
government workers organized into 22 teams had already held over 50
meetings in the village. Officials held an informational meeting
September 20 for representatives from the fishing and aquaculture
industries to hear concerns and to offer assurances that the area's
products were safe to eat. Officials, Lin claimed, have not tried
to regain control of the plant because they do not want to aggravate
the situation.

5. (SBU) Lin acknowledged that environmental sampling results showed
that untreated waste from the plant contained elevated levels of
cadmium and other chemicals. He noted that the holding tank waste
was untreated because the plant was still in a testing,
pre-operational phase. Lin asserted that the plant's treated waste
water -- once fully operational -- would pass environmental
standards. He denied the villagers' assertion that the plant had
discharged untreated waste directly into the sea but appeared to
contradict himself on this point by unconvincingly asserting that
temporary giant fire-hose-like tubes running from the holding tanks
to the nearby sea were connected, underwater, with a deep sea
disposal pipeline.

Government: The plant cannot be relocated
-----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Lin said the government cannot accept the villagers' demand

GUANGZHOU 00000553 002.2 OF 002


that the plant be relocated. When asked about government plans to
peacefully resolve this situation, Lin said the government would
continue to try to educate the villagers to gain their
understanding. He noted that villagers permitted officials to pump
30 tons of a biological agent into the holding tanks September 13 to
stem the stench. Lin said that an investigative unit is
investigating allegations of corruption by local officials in
allowing businesses to send untreated industrial wastes to the
facility, but said the allegations had not been substantiated.

7. (SBU) Regarding villager allegations that more than ten villagers
have been detained by police, Lin said he was unaware of any
detentions but had been informed that six villagers had been
questioned by police concerning illegal acts. CongenOff asked the
FAO for assistance in clarifying allegations that villagers had been
detained, but by September 21 had not yet received a response.

Villagers Being Closely Monitored
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) One villager told us separately that he had heard that a
protest by villagers at the Quangang District Office had turned
violent September 19, with villagers damaging the door to the
office. Police monitoring of suspected villagers has increased,
with villagers increasingly reluctant to share information by phone.
One Fuzhou-based NGO told us that local People's Congress officials
had urged it not to get involved in the Quangang wastewater
treatment plant issue, with the congress officials saying villagers
and their contacts were both being closely monitored.

GOLDBECK

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