XINXIANG, Henan - A heavily-polluting chemical plant in Fengqiu county of Central China's Henan province stopped operation on Wednesday following reports that the county government tried to bury residents' complaints.
A middle-aged woman, surnamed Wang, whose home borders the Xinxiang Yellow River Chemical Industry Co Ltd, confirmed the plant stopped production on Wednesday morning.
The move came a day after the Beijing-based China Youth Daily reported the Fengqiu county government in Xinxiang issued a document on May 7 to set up a team to investigate the problems at the chemical plant.
The report said that 180 copies of the document were sent to all levels of the county government.
An unnamed county official was quoted as saying that the real aim of issuing such a document was to prevent residents from complaining to higher-level officials.
The document names county chief Li Hui as the team leader and 18 other officials as members of eight different teams.
The document directed the teams to hold weekly routine meetings to "learn about the work process of the plant and deal with relevant problems."
Built in a populous area, the Yellow River chemical plant is notorious for the pollution it causes, Wang said.
"The plant functioned around the clock. My family had trouble sleeping. Whenever I hung out my washed clothes, they were also soon covered with a layer of white dust," Wang told China Daily.
Zhao Peiquan, director of the county's environmental protection bureau, was quoted as saying that no pollutants were detected at the plant and that he was unaware of the government-issued document.
Zhao was listed as a member of the "corporation services" team in the document.
Liu Changwang, former Party secretary of Guochang village, situated near the plant, said the county government held a passive attitude toward local residents' complaints about the plant.
"I don't know much about the document, but I'm pretty sure it was not meant to bring the shutters down on the plant," Liu said, adding that fellow villagers had been ordered to move out of homes where they had lived for years.
The government is trying to make room for the plant's expansion, Liu said.
According to Liu, the plant was not producing carbamide, as they claimed, but carbinol.
"I've repeatedly appealed to the county and city government over the years, but all they said was that tests were under way," he said.
The plant was ordered to stop production ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and then resumed operating early this year, he said.
Evolved from the Fengqiu County Chemical Fertilizer Plant built in the 1970s, the Yellow River plant was taken over in 2003 by Huang Jinci, a friend of Li Yinkui, the then Party secretary of Fengqiu.
Li was accused of taking bribes and corruption in February 2009, the China Youth Daily reported.