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Protests Crush Nuclear Complex Plans in Southern China

Categories: East Asia, China, Hong Kong (China), Macau (China), Citizen Media, Environment, Protest

Following three days of continuous protests [1], it seems the Heshan municipal government in Jiangmen city has abandoned its plans to construct a massive nuclear fuel complex [2].

Some believe that this victory – confirmed in a written document [3]  [zh] released on July 14, 2013 – is only temporary. They worry the project may simply prop up somewhere else, near the highly populated Pear River Delta in Southern China.

The Heshan government made several concessions after hundreds of local residents took to the street on July 12 enraged by the high-risk project. At first, the government tried to negotiate to extend their consultation period to 20 days. But this move failed to pacify local residents and at a press conference on July 13 they announced, “with respect to public opinion, the project would not be approved” [4] [zh], even though the city government had already signed the initial agreement with China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).


Protesters took to the street to oppose construction of the proposed nuclear fuel plant on July 12, 2013. Image from Zhu Kunling's [6] weibo.

But some people are not satisfied with the government's claim. In the past, Chinese local governments have adopted delay-tactics like this to pacify people's anger. For example, in Dalian, the city government suspended the PX factory after thousands took to the streets in 2011 [7] in the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” campaign, but the factory was restored back to normal operations after a few months [8] [zh].

“Little bee” (@小蜜蜂-V [9]) and “Little Eaffen” (@Eaffen细细 [10])'s comments on Sina Weibo:

小蜜蜂-V [9]:看了新闻发布会,但只字没提到取消两只,只是说在社会未达共识时,不立项,不动工。认误解成取消了?

“Little bee”: Having seen the press conference, (the spokesperson) did not mention ‘cancel’, only said ‘as long as there is no agreement in the society, the project will not be approved and built. (Have we) misunderstood?

Eaffen细细 [10]:真的假的?不立项什么意思?应该明确表明以后都不会建才行!

Little Eaffen: Is it true? What does it mean by ‘not approve’? We only accept ‘not to build the plant forever’!

Some netizens spelled out that the halt is just a ‘delay tactic [11]’ [zh]:

张二飞flyfan [12]:又不知道哪个内陆城市要倒霉了

Zhang Erfei flyfan: Wonder if which inland city will be unlucky.

就是爱摩托 [13]:会不会过几天又宣布:鹤山核燃料项目取消,经专家研究,决定将项目迁到新会~

Damn like motorcycle: Will (the government) announce that the Heshan nuclear processing plant is cancelled, and with research from professionals, the project will be relocated to Xinhui (another Guangdong city)?

This government document is what the protesters had been longing for. It is written that Jiangmen government cancelled the plant project. (Source: Sina Weibo)

The government document on the cancellation of the nuclear plant project [zh].

With anger and distrust, hundreds of local residents continued to rally on the third day on July 14 demanding a written official document on the cancellation of the project. The city's two vice mayors arrived at the protest spot, Donghu Square [14] to reassure the public of their decision. Still people could not accept their verbal promise and they marched to the municipal government building, where the secretary of municipal Party committee showed them a written notice of the project's cancellation. They cheered and claimed victory.

However, the written document has not cleared all skepticism as the contract signed between Heshan government and CNNC involves 37 billion RMB (6 billion USD) investment [2]. So far, the CNNC has not announced any change in its plan. Some are worried that the project will eventually find a home in the Pearl River Delta. For example, “ocean_Joe [15]” said:


Ocean_Joe: We have to think carefully. Why did the government introduce the project? Why wasn't it introduced after public consultation? Why did (the government) intend to make a decision that affects our lives and our offsprings’ lives, in only 13 days? The dispute has been settled, but who will know [when or where] the project might start again in the future? Please do not test the baseline of the people of Jiangmen and Pearl River Delta. My home belongs to the Delta.