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Protests against the construction of a paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming city in China's Guangdong province on Sunday have spread to the provincial capital of Guangzhou. Several hundred protesters gathered in solidarity with residents of Maoming in their opposition to the plant and to denounce police brutality in quelling the demonstration over the weekend.

PlasticsToday Staff

April 1, 2014

2 Min Read
China PX plant protests spill over into Guangzhou

Protests against the construction of a paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming city in China's Guangdong province on Sunday have spread to the provincial capital of Guangzhou. Several hundred protesters gathered in solidarity with residents of Maoming in their opposition to the plant and to denounce police brutality in quelling the demonstration over the weekend. There have been at least three other large campaigns against PX plants in China in recent years, including one in the wealthy coastal city of Xiamen, reports the Wall Street Journal. PX is a chemical used in the production of plastic bottles and other goods. It can cause eye irritation, vomiting, and respiratory problems under some circumstances.

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image courtesy China.org.cn.

The protests in Maoming started peacefully, according to ABC News, but late in the evening people on motorbikes began throwing bricks, stones, and bottles at riot police, who responded by chasing and beating protestors. There are unconfirmed reports of fatalities and several injuries.

While the situation in Maoming had eased by Tuesday, the protest in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, will raise the profile of this issue, reports the Financial Times.

The planned petrochemical plant is part of the projected expansion of an existing oil refinery operated by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec). If it is built, the Maoming facility will have the capacity to produce 600,000 metric tons of PX annually, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Commenting on the demonstrations, the Global Times, which is published by China's Communist Party, wrote that "China has to depend on huge [PX] imports due to a domestic shortage of supply." Appealing to nationalist instincts, the tabloid went on to note that "PX factories in Japan and South Korea are delighted to benefit from the soaring prices of hydrocarbon exports to China." While calling for transparency and strict adherence to laws and regulations in approving new PX plants, the media outlet decried that the "whole country seems to be trapped in a negative cycle of protests and suspension of PX plants."

By Monday night, Maoming government officials appeared to have softened their position, writes the Financial Times. "We will definitely listen to public opinion . . . before making a decision on the project launch," they said via Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. "We will not make a decision contrary to public opinion."

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