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Cablegate: Fujian Wastewater Treatment Plant Update: Officials Claim

VZCZCXRO3144
RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL
RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGZ #0592/01 2920659
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190659Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0991
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0289
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0777
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0223
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0233
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0224
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0293
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0211
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE 0026
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC 0036
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0272
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0268
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5// 0024

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000592

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: Fujian Wastewater Treatment Plant Update: Officials Claim
Peaceful Resolution, but Access Denied

REF A: GUANGZHOU 553 AND PREVIOUS

GUANGZHOU 00000592 001.2 OF 002


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

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite official claims that a standoff at a
villager-occupied wastewater treatment plant in Fujian Province had
been resolved peacefully, local Party and government officials
prevented travel to the site or contact with the villagers in
mid-October by Post personnel. End summary.

Officials Claim "Peaceful Resolution"
-------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Quangang District Party Standing Committee member and
Information Director Mr. Lin and Quanzhou Foreign Affairs Office
(FAO) Deputy Director Mr. Huang briefed ConGenoff in Xiamen October
15 to provide an official update on the situation in Fengwei
township, where a nearby suspect wastewater treatment plant was
occupied by villagers August 26 (reftel). Lin and Huang said that,
following a meeting between villager representatives and Quanzhou's
acting mayor on September 28, during which the acting mayor publicly
apologized for the government's handling of the pollution problem
and pledged that the wastewater plant's operations would be brought
into conformity with national standards, the mood within the village
shifted markedly in support of working with the local government to
find a peaceful resolution of the issue.

3. (SBU) At the same September meeting, the acting mayor also told
the village representatives that because it was imperative that the
plant return to operation, authorities would give the villagers
until October 5 to relinquish control of the facility, according to
Lin. Lin said that although "99%" of the villagers favored
surrendering control of the plant, a very small group of "holdouts"
remained past the deadline and refused to leave the plant. Lin said
the situation was finally resolved "peacefully and without incident"
October 13, when plant workers and Environmental Protection Bureau
officials were able to enter and retake control of the facility.

4. (SBU) When asked if any of the villagers had been detained in
connection with the wastewater plant protest, Lin said that "fewer
than 10 people" had been detained and were currently under
investigation. Lin and Huang emphatically claimed that the
situation had been successfully resolved because local officials
exercised patience and restraint, listened to villager concerns and
implemented confidence-building measures following the first, failed
attempt to retake control through the use of police force.

Actions Belie Official Claims of Open Access
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) When asked if there were currently any constraints on
travel to or from the village or on villager contacts with media or
others outside the village, the officials said there were "no
constraints," as the situation had "returned to normal." Moreover,
according to Lin and Huang, the vast majority of the villagers were
supportive of the manner in which the issue was resolved.

6. (SBU) After subsequent failed attempts to phone contacts in the
village to corroborate the official statements, ConGenoff determined
to take advantage of the officials' earlier claims of free access to
the village by making an unannounced evening visit. Although this
decision was made late in the day -- and closely held -- authorities
clearly anticipated the visit.

7. (SBU) Upon exiting the expressway, but still a number of miles
from Quangang, a plainclothes officer at a police checkpoint asked
the driver, "Is there a diplomat in the car?" The officer then
asked if the Quanzhou FAO had been informed of the travel.
ConGenoff responded that he had met with the FAO earlier in the day
and had been told there were no constraints on travel to the
village. The officer then called FAO Deputy Director Huang.
ConGenoff explained to Huang his interest in independently verifying
the information received earlier in the day, noting that Huang and
Lin had said there were no constraints on travel to the village.

GUANGZHOU 00000592 002.2 OF 002


Huang remarked that he happened to be nearby, and that he would
drive to the police checkpoint to discuss the situation.

8. (SBU) Huang subsequently summoned Lin, who expressed dismay that,
after having provided such a detailed update, ConGenoff would desire
to independently verify his report. Lin also expressed concern that
ConGenoff would "misunderstand" the situation if he happened to talk
to the "small minority" in the village that was discontented. Lin
also noted that the "dissenters" might try to use the USG presence
to re-galvanize the villagers' protest. ConGenOff reiterated post's
interest in independently verifying the officials' information so as
to be able to report on the situation with confidence, but desisted
after it became clear that the officials did not plan to allow a
visit to the village.

GOLDBECK

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