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Protesters force closure of Dalian chemical plant


08:01, August 15, 2011

A damaged dyke, built to protect the Fujia Chemical Plant, is seen after a storm battered the port city of Dalian last Monday. Authorities in Dalian ordered the plant, which makes toxic petrochemical paraxylene, to be shut down immediately yesterday after thousands of people demonstrated, demanding relocation of the factory over fears that flooding could result in a spill of toxic chemicals. The government also pledged to relocate the plant.(Xinhua Photo)

A chemical plant in Dalian in northeast China has been ordered to shut immediately after 12,000 residents took to the streets over concerns of potential toxic chemical leaks.

Dalian authorities yesterday also pledged to relocate the controversial Fujia Chemical Plant, in a statement issued just six hours after the protest began in the port city.

A small crowd gathered in front of government buildings at around 10am yesterday and quickly grew from there.

Protesters chanted "Fujia, get out!" and "Serve the people," sang the national anthem and displayed banners printed with the phrases "We want to survive" and "We want a good environment."

There were scuffles with police, although there were no reports of injuries. At one point, protesters threw bottles of mineral water at police who had tried to cordon off a section of a main road that passes near the square.

Before giving the order to shut the plant, Dalian's Communist Party chief Tang Jun and Mayor Li Wancai had tried to appease the crowd by promising to move the plant, but protesters demanded a clear timetable for relocation.

The plant is a producer of paraxylene (PX), a carcinogenic petrochemical used to create raw materials for the production of polyester film and fabrics.

Calls to relocate the plant mounted last week after waves whipped up by tropical storm Muifa breached a dike built to protect the plant from floodwaters. Residents were concerned that a flood could damage the plant and cause it to release toxic chemicals.

The breached dike has been repaired and no chemical leaks have been reported, but demands for relocation still gathered steam. Calls for street protests rapidly circulated on the Internet.
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