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44 punished over PX protests

By Jiang Jie and Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-4 0:58:02

Forty-four people have been punished for taking part in protests against a proposed paraxylene (PX) project in Maoming, Guangdong Province, local police said Thursday.

Zhou Peizhou, deputy director of Maoming Public Security Bureau, said in a press conference on Thursday that 18 people were detained and 26 received an administrative punishment for disturbing social order and provoking trouble during the protests, which entered their fifth day on Thursday.

"There has been an outbreak of public disorder in Maoming, when a mob of 40 people incited the public to block traffic and damage public facilities amid the government's efforts to spread knowledge of the PX project, whose timetable for construction is yet to be launched," said Liang Luoyue, deputy mayor of Maoming at a press conference Thursday.

When asked about a letter that residents alleged workers and students were being forced to sign, giving their approval for the project, education department official Liang Xuquan said that a few schools failed to disseminate knowledge about PX to students in a proper way.

"No students were punished in the protest," Zhou said.

The authorities also said at the press conference that they apologized because 15 people, including 4 police officers, were "accidentally" injured during the clashes between police and protesters.

The authorities reiterated that they would uphold their vow to residents of "no PX project construction before public consultation."

The press conference was broadcast online and attended by national media, unlike prior events which were mainly attended by local media.

Some residents were not assuaged by the efforts to bring calm to Maoming, with anti-PX protests continuing.

Protesters rallied on the lawn outside Maoming government building Thursday afternoon, demanding direct talks with officials. Police cordoned off the area and prevented people from accessing the area, some witnesses reached by the Global Times said. No conflicts were reported as of press time.

"They should have taken the whole process slowly. You don't 'spread the knowledge' and ask people to 'sign to agree' at the same time. This is adding fuel to the fire," Han Zhipeng, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Guangzhou Committee told the Global Times.

Han added that it is progress of a kind, as local authorities were trying to face up to the issue, which they had attempted to hide over past days. 

Some residents reached by the Global Times demanded a referendum on the project, while Han said that supervision on the referendum itself may be dubious due to the long-existing corruption issues within the government body.

"The coming Tomb-Sweeping Festival may not be relaxing," Han said.

"The public are not convinced by the repeated 'consultation before construction' talk. Even if the project will eventually be launched in Maoming, the environmental protection department at provincial or ministry level must set up a working team to supervise its operation."

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