SHANGHAI, July 30 Bad decision-making was the
main reason for a violent environmental protest in eastern China
at the weekend, a state newspaper said in an unusually mild
reproach stance after thousands of residents ransacked offices
and overturned cars.
Chinese officials cancelled an industrial waste pipeline
project on Saturday after the violence in the city of Qidong,
the latest in a string of pollution protests across the country.
Similar scenes of violence sparked by environmental fears
played out earlier this month in the town of Shifang, in Sichuan
province, highlighting the social tensions China faces as it
approaches a leadership transition this year.
Authorities are especially worried about maintaining social
stability as they balance economic growth and the fallout from
"An irrational decision-making process is the main reason
why the Shifang and Qidong governments experienced mass
incidents," the normally hawkish Global Times said.
It added that the two governments should not be strapped
with total blame, because they lacked guidance on handling such
cases and had to react to competing pressures to maintain
stability and respond to the public outcry.
In a development likely to cause concern in Beijing, some
demonstrators in Qidong said they were inspired by the events in
Shifang, where the protests were widely seen as having forced
the local government to cancel a refinery project.
The spread of a "Shifang-Qidong Model" of violent protest
would damage social stability "and present an unprecedented
challenge to China's future development", the Global Times
"Now is a good opportunity with these classic cases of
Shifang and Qidong to undertake serious reforms within the
system," it said.
The People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece
and the Global Times' parent publication, applauded the local
government's decision to permanently scrap the offending project
that planned to dump waste water from a paper factory into the
sea near Qidong.
It said officials should reflect on recent conflicts and
consider the question of how to foster rational interaction
between governments and the people to avoid "irrational
emotions" and "extreme behaviour".
"Being a responsible government means to make oneself
independent of the specific entanglements of economic interests
and become the implementor of the public interest, balancer of
economic interests," it said.
"At the same time (a responsible government should) give the
masses a normal pathway to air demands for their rights,
establish an open and transparent decision-making mechanism and
create an inclusive environment for public opinion."
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Nick Macfie)