A brutal police attack on an anti-pollution protest at an industrial park on the outskirts of Dongyang city, Zhejiang province, triggered huge clashes between thousands of protesters and 3,000 riot police.
By Laurence Coates in Taipei
Reports that two elderly women were killed during the protest against a proposed chemical factory ?sparked a bloody riot by thousands of villagers,? according to the Guardian newspaper (London). Several dozen police officers were injured, five seriously, during the clashes in Huankantou village, near Dongyang, on Sunday 10 April. The protest was one of countless similar protests in which anger against the police and the corrupt officials of the so-called ?communist? party (CCP) has spilled over into violent clashes.
Local officials, backed up by police, tried to clear 200 elderly women who had kept a two-week vigil outside a chemical factory that has been linked to ruined crops and deformities in new-born babies. The protest, organised mostly by elderly women, opposed a plan to build a second chemical factory at the Huashi industrial park. Their banner read: ?Give me back my land. Save my children and grandchildren.?
Industrial pollution is a gargantuan problem in China, where industrial waste is often pumped untreated into rivers. A staggering 70 per cent of China?s rivers and lakes are polluted and 300 million people are drinking unsafe or harmful water. The World Bank reports that seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world are in China.
?Rocks, cudgels and choppers?
According to the Guardian report, ?Witnesses claimed that police and construction officials from the Dongyang city government were reckless in their attempt to pull down the demonstrators? bamboo shelters and arrest the women.?
?They were run over by police cars,? one villager told Reuters news agency, explaining the deaths of two women protesters. The local government denied that anyone was killed. Following the reports, a huge crowd of villagers stormed a school where the police and officials had taken refuge.
?They were attacked with rocks, cudgels and choppers by thousands of people and more than 30 were hurt and taken to hospital, five in serious condition,? a Dongyang city official said. 3,000 riot police were subsequently dispatched to the area, but were met by a hail of stones from
villagers who smashed the windows of 50 buses before the police were able to take control of the situation using teargas and clubs. As is customary in such situations, the CCP authorities imposed a news blackout and journalists were prevented from entering the area.
160 protests per day
Mounting anger at corruption, environmental destruction and inequality is fuelling an unprecedented protest wave in China. Sweatshop workers have taken part in audacious strike struggles against super-exploitation, state employees have blocked roads and railways against privatisation and sackings, and peasants ? traditionally the main base of the CCP regime ? have taken part in mass protests against excessive taxation and land-grabbing by corrupt officials.
In 2003, there were an average 160 protests every day in China, according to the regime?s own statistics, double the number in the year 2000. In many provincial capitals, roadblocks set up by demonstrators occur more than once a week.
The anti-Japanese protests of the last two to three weeks in cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu are undoubtedly an attempt by the Chinese regime to deflect rising social discontent from itself towards an ?external threat?. While fears over Japanese rearmament
are genuinely felt by many Chinese, nationalist and semi-fascist groupings like the ?China Federation for Defending the Diaoyutai Islands? have been given free rein by the authorities in recent weeks to mobilise support on the internet. Such acts of official tolerance are in striking contrast to the brutal treatment of Zhejiang?s women protesters whose actions conflict with the profit interests of Chinese capitalism.