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Officials suspended after protests over pollution
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-03 09:13

Authorities in Hunan province suspended two environmental officials and detained a chemical plant boss following protests over factory pollution in Zhentou township, an official said Sunday.

Residents claimed the Xianghe Chemical Factory polluted a river and caused at least two deaths in the area.

Nearly 1,000 villagers gathered at government and police offices in Zhentou township in Central China's Hunan province on Thursday to protest the pollution, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The protesters also said that chemical wastes from the factory pollute the water that irrigates their rice and vegetable fields.

They have been demanding free health checks and medical treatment after two people who died earlier this year near the factory were found to have excessive levels of cadmium, a toxic metal used in battery production, in their bodies.

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Local authorities ordered the plant to cease operations in March and suspended its director for investigation. However, no compensation was made to villagers.

Following Thursday's protest, local police on Saturday arrested the head of the factory, a Hunan native. The government also suspended the chief and deputy chief of Liuyang's environment protection bureau, an official of the provincial city of Changsha said.

Changsha administers the county-level city of Liuyang.

The Changsha official declined to provide additional details about the arrest or suspension.

Telephone calls to the factory yesterday were answered by an automated response that stated the phone number was no longer in use.

The chemical plant began operations in 2003, and in April 2004 it introduced a production line for Indium, which is used to make liquid crystal displays.

Changsha government sources told Xinhua that Xianghe Chemical Factory is the direct source of the cadmium pollution in the area.

Authorities have isolated a polluted area surrounding the factory within a distance of 500 m to 1,200 m. Local residents also are being offered free health checks and medical treatment, Xinhua reported.

China Daily - Agencies