About ten thousand people in China’s Hunan province took to the streets on Aug. 4 to protest the construction of a toxic waste incinerator near their town’s water supply. Several protesters were beaten bloody by police, while irate villagers beat up the vice mayor.
Peace in the picturesque, yet densely populated Beishan township in Changsha County was shattered after local authorities announced plans in July to construct a 180 million yuan (US$28 million) hazardous and medical waste disposal plant in the hills above the Beishan reservoir, the drinking and irrigation water source for many villages.
Beishan resident Ge told The Epoch Times that all the people in the surrounding villages are opposed to it as it is certain that the garbage incinerator will pollute the water.
Ge said in mid-July the construction company started bringing building materials to the site without the village representatives’ permission. That’s when villagers went to the township government and pleaded, on their knees, against the construction.
“But despite villagers’ strong opposition, the Beishan township government still insisted that the incinerator be built. They also told the Beishan police to arrest the two protest leaders,” Ge said.
According to local resident Liu, the villagers then went to the town government on the morning of Aug. 4, asking the vice mayor to release the two captive fellow villagers.
Liu said the vice mayor refused to release them and said that it was none of his business. The furious villagers then dragged the vice mayor down from the 4th story of the government building and beat him up. They then went to the police station where the two men were detained.
Eventually about ten thousand villagers gathered around the police station, according to Liu’s estimate. Many riot police also showed up.
“Some villagers were beaten bloody. Angry villagers smashed doors and windows of the police station and turned over several cars. At the end, the Changsha County Party committee leader arrived and finally released the arrested,” Liu said.
One Chinese blogger who was at the scene, posted this message on the web: “We poor Beishan residents had no weapons, and many were beaten to the ground by riot police.”
Villager Luo told The Epoch Times, “The lives of tens of thousands of township residents are threatened. If the government does not give in, we will resort to any means!”
According to villagers, local media had reported the construction as a high-profile project supported by the Hunan provincial government. It said the garbage incinerator would handle the hazardous waste from ten cities in Hunan in addition to the Changsa area’s medical waste, and that emission standards of the plant would reach European standards.
One villager sarcastically said, “Don’t give us that nonsense about emission standards reaching European standards. This year, China’s Red Cross Society plundered the public’s money, and the railway killed so many. How can we believe them?”
The Epoch Times made calls to the Beishan government and police station asking for comments regarding the matter, and was told by police station staff: “Ask the Changsha County Propaganda Department. We have no say in this matter.”