China / Society

S.China city vows review of PX plans

By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou ( Updated: 2014-04-02 17:35

A senior official from Maoming, a port city in western Guangdong province, promised not to start construction of a petrochemical project until an agreement has been reached among local social society.

"The city's paraxylene project is still undergoing a feasibility study, and the start of construction is still a long way off," Maoming Deputy Mayor Liang Luoyue said on April 2.

Liang promised to open multiple channels to solicit public opinion and expand communication with experts and residents for the project in the following months.

Maoming's city government agreed to the moves after a protest against the construction of the PX project on March 30. The protesters were worried that the PX project will damage the local environment and harm people's health.

Liang met protesters in his government building on April 1, carefully listened to their suggestions for the project and answered their questions, according to a statement from the Maoming city government on April 2.

"The government will never sacrifice the environment for construction of the chemical project," Liang told protesters.

Liang urged locals not to trust and spread rumors.

Thousands of residents took to the streets on Sunday in protest of the proposed 3.5 billion yuan ($564 million) paraxylene project, which would add to the city's existing petrochemical operations jointly run by the local government and State-owned oil giant Sinopec.

Maoming is already a major petrochemical production base in Guangdong, which borders the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

The protest later led to beatings, vandalism and looting in local streets by a handful of lawbreakers.

A small group of protesters destroyed some public facilities by throwing rocks and bottles at about 10:30 pm on Sunday.

Photos uploaded on some major Chinese Internet portals show that hundreds of residents gathered in front of the government building on Sunday in the early morning and walked through the city, holding banners in protest of the proposed project.

No injuries nor deaths were reported.

Local police urged those who violated laws or were involved in illegal activities during the protest to turn themselves in to police.

Zheng Fenming, director of the Institute of Modernization Strategy at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said the protest indicated locals' awareness of environmental protection has increased.

Maoming may not have been ready or well prepared for construction of the PX project when locals protested construction of the project, he said.

"Relevant departments should clearly explain to locals the advantages and disadvantages of the PX project before the project is authorized," Zheng told China Daily on Wednesday.

Open, just and transparent procedures should also be introduced for registration and construction of the project, said Zheng who is also a member of Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Meanwhile government departments should have to compensate those who have to move away for construction of the project and those whose legal interests will be affected by construction of the project, he added.

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