December 31, 2005

Xinhua: China sacks officials after pollution riots

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has sacked or punished senior
government officials in the country's affluent east over a
pollution stand-off that turned violent, the official Xinhua
News Agency said, as Beijing tries to get tough on industrial

China -- which wants to portray an image of being
responsive to growing peasant dissatisfaction -- has stepped up
efforts to hold officials accountable for their slips-ups or

Tang Yong, the former party secretary of Dongyang city in
the wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang, and ex-mayor Chen
Fengwei had been fired, Xinhua cited an official government
circular as saying late on Friday.

And punishment or penalties had been meted out to other
officials responsible for the incident, Xinhua added.

Thousands rioted in a village outside Dongyang city in
April -- injuring up to 50 policemen -- after rumors spread
that two of about 200 elderly women keeping a two-week vigil at
an industrial site and protesting against factory pollution
died during police efforts to disperse them.

Protesters outnumbered police, who fled the scene after
trying without success to tear down sheds and road-blocks set
up by villagers outside an industrial park housing 13 chemical
factories, sources said at the time.

"The provincial government has set up a special team to
investigate the accusations of pollution and shut down those
chemical plants thought responsible," Xinhua said in the

The protests highlight the environmental price of China's
economic growth, as well as mounting dissatisfaction over a
widening rich-poor rift. That becomes especially significant
because the Communist Party is obsessed with maintaining social

Heavily industrialized Zhejiang has seen at least three
major demonstrations over industrial pollution this year,
including one in August when protesters set fire to factory
buildings and police cars at a battery plant.

In 2004, there was a sharp rise in "mass incidents" such as
protests, riots and mass petitions, China's top police
official, Zhou Yongkang, said this year.

Such "incidents" reached 74,000 in 2004, compared to 58,000
a year earlier and 10,000 a decade before, he said.