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Police and protestors gather outside the local government offices in the city of Qidong/AFP

Focus on China

China paper says leaders must listen after riots

Police and protestors gather outside the local government offices in the city of Qidong/AFP

BEIJING, Jul 30 – China’s most influential newspaper on Monday urged authorities to listen to people’s worries about pollution, after fears over a new waste water pipeline sparked weekend riots.

“The public’s awareness of environmental issues and their rights is increasing at a rapid pace,” said an editorial in the People’s Daily – the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist party.

China should strive to “establish an open and transparent decision-making mechanism, and build a tolerant environment for public opinion”, it said.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Qidong agreed Saturday to cancel plans to build a new water pipeline after thousands of local people took to the streets, overturning cars and ransacking government offices.

They were concerned that the pipeline, from a Japanese-owned paper factory, would pollute a nearby fishing port.

China’s dependence on manufacturing for economic growth has left the country struggling with a legacy of industrial pollution, and the riots were only the latest in a series of environmental protests.

Last year, a large-scale demonstration in the coastal city of Dalian forced the local government to relocate a chemical factory.

The People’s Daily said the growing frustration surrounding pollution from industrial projects provides the country with an opportunity to shift away from low-end manufacturing towards less-polluting industries.

Many of the projects that have been the object of citizen protests had been approved by the local government without sufficient consultation with local residents, it said.

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Such high profile protests highlighted the need “to promote interaction between citizens and government” when assessing the environmental impact of proposed industrial projects, the paper added.


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