China orders checks on chemical plants after protests

BEIJING Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:52am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday ordered nationwide safety and environmental checks at plants that make dangerous chemicals, threatening to suspend those that cannot fix problems, in response to protests that broke out in the port city of Dalian in August following a toxic spill scare.

The powerful state planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, said all plants which contain dangerous chemicals like paraxylene "must immediately conduct full self-inspections and eliminate hidden risks in a timely manner," Xinhua news agency said.

"Those manufacturers that can not rectify their problems must suspend production at once."

Xinhua said the move was prompted by August demonstrations in Dalian demanding the relocation of the factory at the center of pollution worries.

China's leaders have vowed to create a more "harmonious society" with cleaner air and water, even at the cost of slower economic growth. But environmental disputes like these pit citizens against local officials whose priority often remains attracting fresh investment and revenue.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard)

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