Andrea Hsu

Environmental Protestors Go for a Stroll

Chengdu environmental protest

Chengdu residents turned out Sunday to protest the building of an ethylene plant they say could further pollute the city's air and water. Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR

Hundreds of people gathered along Chengdu's Funan River Sunday, to express concern over the building of a state-owned ethylene plant they fear will pollute the air and the water. Word of this environmental protest spread through cell phone text messages that urged people to gather for a stroll, without slogans, without posters. And that's what people did.

For two hours, the protestors, some of them in face masks, walked, chatted, loitered by the river. Police were present, on motorcycles, in cruisers, and later - on foot, a large group of them having been bused in.

But few seemed intimidated.

Photos were being snapped left and right, some of the protestors posing for pictures in front of the police bus. I caught one young activist lecturing a group of four fresh-faced cops, telling them they should throw their police caps into the river, put on face masks, and take an interest in protecting the natural environment. Later on, when a policeman on a megaphone ordered the crowd to disperse, another protestor called out "But we're just waiting for the bus!" sending ripples of laughter through the crowd.

All in all, it was a remarkable scene: hundreds of people openly, if somewhat cautiously, expressing discontent. But, as another protestor pointed out, Sunday's gathering was still a far cry from what, ideally, they would be doing, if allowed.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I'm glad to see that people are starting to express their concerns openly and the government is showing more self-restraint.

When such peaceful protests happen more and more, government will learn that it is not as terrible as they think to let people speak what they think. Although violence should absolutely be avoided.

BTW: I believe there is a website setup by the Chengdu government for people to express their concerns about this project. I cannot find it now, but I will post it here once I do.

Sent by C. Liang | 12:12 PM | 5-6-2008

Concerning this project, you can visit

Sent by ruby | 9:32 PM | 5-6-2008

I'm gald to see the protests. However, I believe that it means nothing. The government these years has loosen its scrutiny over peaceful demonstrations, however doesn't care for the demands from the public at all.

I bet the plant will be built as scheduled.

It reminds me of a similar demonstration that broke out in southeastern coastal city Xiamen last year, against a prospective paraxylene plant in a residental area. With over 20,000 protesters peacefully demonstrated in the main streets, the government was scared but only moved the plant to a nearby city.

Sent by Wecan Wong | 5:16 AM | 5-7-2008

To Wong:

I would think that the XiaMen protest is a success. At least the local government accommodates the concerns of protesters and plans to move the project to a less populated area.

At the same time, there are probably more local people who welcome the project that will provide them jobs. These factories have to be built somewhere as the economy demands them. The best solution is to have the concerns of all parties taken into account, but not to kill a project totally.

The same goes for the Chengdu protest; if protesters' voices are heard and then reflected in the final project, the protest will be a success.

Sent by C. Liang | 10:58 AM | 5-7-2008

It's nice to see more people openly express their concerns about the environment. No matter how tough the government is, people should have confidence in their own voices on public issues and in their own power to protect the public interests.

Sent by lakeaustin | 6:03 PM | 5-7-2008

Please provide more in-depth report of this ethylene project and the stories of local protests. Thank you.

Sent by lakeaustin | 6:28 PM | 5-7-2008

To C. Liang:

I fully understand and empathize with your point of view. The situation here in China is indisputablely turning much better, compared to how it was 20 or 30 years ago. At least people are now free to "wait for a bus" wherever they want.

And that is as far I can go for this topic.

Sent by Wecan Wong | 8:30 AM | 5-11-2008

Unfortunately, the organizers and those who post messages online about the possible negative effects of this project, are arrested by Chengdu police.

See the link below:

Sent by lakeaustin | 6:35 PM | 5-11-2008

To lakeaustin,

The messages they post include many, many mistakes and confuse folks about xylene and ethylene. The police think this confusion is intentional.

Sent by moss | 8:22 PM | 5-11-2008

To moss,

I am aware of the fact that their posts contain many mistakes and inaccuracies. However, the key is that the public should be allowed to participate in discussion of such a big and potentially dangerous project. An open discussion will help to reduce mistakes and clarify confusion. When the state controls all information and various voices are denied, how could the public learn about the truth? Arresting those who dare to speak out only invites the public to distrust their government.

Sent by lake austin | 9:23 AM | 5-12-2008


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