| Global Times | 2012-7-5 0:25:03
By Global Times
Days after a molybdenum copper plant project that triggered large scale protests was halted by the Shifang city government, tensions continue to linger. People have called on local authorities to release detained protesters.
According to official accounts, 21 of the 27 people taken away during the protests have been released. Currently, three protesters remain in administrative detention and another three in criminal detention.
Tensions came about from the Shifang government's decision-making procedure in approving the heavy-metal refinery, which the public was strongly against.
When the confrontation escalated, police vehicles were turned over during the protests and police were pelted with rocks. Tear gas was then applied to disperse the demonstrators.
Quite a few people think the public was forced to turn to violence when the initial protests against the government's misguided decision proved fruitless. As a result, protesters currently under detention should be freed unconditionally. The request has received support from some public opinion leaders.
We hold that the Shifang government should initiate an investigation promptly and make the findings public. The legal responsibility of the six protesters, especially the three in criminal detention, has to be based on facts and be decided by law.
Moreover, local authorities need to communicate thoroughly with the public and reflect on their previous mistakes to avoid a new round of confrontation.
Protesters involved in the incident have received sympathy from the public. However, some negative moods long simmering in cyber space have also joined to reinforce this protest. This sentiment will continue during the investigation period.
The protest was triggered by an environmental dispute, not a political one. Local authorities' response was also aimed at restoring order.
But the incident has attracted the attention of the whole of society, including negative sentiments in public opinion. It will make it more difficult for the government to smooth over conflicts.
This is why a local dispute in China can easily turn into a national issue. The Shifang government now has to face inquiries by local residents, and the dissatisfaction of netizens.
The conclusion of this incident has to be authoritative and the issue must be dealt with in an open and transparent manner. Otherwise, it would be a blow to the dignity of the law.
If the local government is unable to proceed with the investigation due to its damaged credibility, higher administrative and judiciary departments should become involved.
Public figures can also be invited to find a better mechanism to respond to mass protests.
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