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Can Hangzhou reverse nimby trend?

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-12 0:23:03

On Saturday, a mass incident in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, was triggered by a waste incineration power plant project. Some local residents took the liberty of blocking roads and smashing cars and other property. Even police were assaulted during the incident.

The next day, local police made an abrupt announcement, demanding perpetrators at large to give themselves up. The local government also promised that the project won't kick off without finishing all the legal procedures and getting approval from the public.

This is a new crisis, which was incurred by so-called pollution concerns raised by industrial projects. Paraxylene projects are probably the first and most widely known factor that ignited such protests around the country.  Mass protests usually lead to closure of these projects, which serve as a catalyst for more similar cases.

The announcement made by Hangzhou police was the first time that local authorities maintained a tough foothold to stop the negative trend. And we are in favor of its attempt to protect the rule of law.

The power plant might be approved in a flawed process, but criticisms should never transform into blocking roads or assaulting police. China's rule of law and democracy will never be fulfilled by violence.

China has been trapped by not-in-my-backyard - nimby - syndrome. The problem, if further winked at, will probably lead to complete social disorder. Those nimby activists, if they keep provoking trouble, must face stern legal punishments. The authorities also need to offer effective measures to ease growing irrational concerns about industrial projects.

In recent years, public opinion never ceases to criticize local governments for bad public relations and incompetent communication.

But public concerns are gaining momentum, and due to the lack of government credibility, the effect of communication is greatly reduced. As for these protesters, nimby is the easiest approach to take. The requirements for these industrial projects have failed to draw enough attention from public opinion.

This conflict about the project, which at most is a local dispute between the minority and the majority, has been soon hyped up as a confrontation between the people and the local government.

This outcome can be found in almost all the places where similar crises broke out. The nimby demand of the local residents will usually draw nationwide support, which creates the illusion that the entire country can avoid industrial projects.

China has probably become the most comfortable hotbed for nimby, which means Chinese authorities have to take urgent measures to reverse this dangerous tendency.

But now communication and PR by local governments are unlikely to have an effect.

It demands authorities at a higher level vouch for the safety of these projects and improve concrete measures such as making sure relocated residents get proper compensation.

These actions require State governance as well as execution by local governments. The authorities need both prudence and boldness. We hope Hangzhou will be a turning point to stop the nimby trend.
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