BEIJING (Reuters) - Protesters in eastern China clashed with police at a rally against plans to build a huge waste incinerator that residents fear will be harmful to their health and add to pollution.
Choking smog blankets many Chinese cities and the environmental degradation resulting from the country’s breakneck economic growth is angering its increasingly well-educated and affluent population.
Two of the protesters told Reuters that the demonstrations, which have lasted for more than two weeks, turned violent with hundreds of police descending onto the streets of Yuhang, close to the tourist city of Hangzhou.
“There have certainly been injuries,” one of the protesters, Wu Yunfeng, said by telephone. “The police have closed down the roads into Yuhang and locked the site down.”
Another protester, who declined to give her name, said several police cars had been overturned.
A police officer, reached by telephone, said the demonstration had already ended. He declined to provide further details.
Reuters was unable to reach the local government for comment.
On Friday, the official Hangzhou Daily newspaper defended the construction of the incinerator, saying the technology it would use was safe and up to standard.
Hangzhou, capital of prosperous Zhejiang province and best known in China as the site of a famous lake, has seen its lustre dimmed in recent years by a recurrent smog problem.
Pictures on China’s Twitter-like Weibo site showed police fighting with protesters and at least two protesters with blood streaming down their faces.
Another picture showed several hundred people surrounding a large group of police.
“We don’t want our children and grandchildren to get cancer. Give us back our beautiful home,” read one letter of protest carried on Weibo.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the pictures’ authenticity.
About 90,000 “mass incidents” - a euphemism for protests - occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances.
Late in March, hundreds of residents of the southern town of Maoming staged protests against plans to build a petrochemical plant there, for fear it would contribute to pollution.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Matthew Miller; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky