Paraxylene and grassroots in Xiamen

Xiamen (厦门) is a coastal city in Fujian province, China. It was one of the first cities to open up to foreign investment in the 1980’s and has seen good economic growth since. Only 16 km from the city center, Tenglong Aromatic PX is constructing a 10.8 billion RMB chemical plant that is expected to produce 800,000 tons of paraxylene (PX) per year. Fears of an environmental disaster has lead to the rise of what looks like a grassroots movement to stop the plans. There was some movement in the Chinese blogosphere and in the middle of May Memedia reported on anti-PX graffiti in Xiamen (the blog of the graffiti artist has since been shut down).

On the 25th of May, an SMS began spreading like a virus among the 1.5 million residents of Xiamen, being resent nearly 1 million times and also posted by some bloggers.

台湾第一通缉犯陈由豪与翔鹭集团合资已在海沧区动工投资Px(苯)项目,这种巨毒化工品一生产,厦门岛意味着放了一颗原子弹,厦门人民以后的生活将在白血病、畸形儿中度过。我们要生活、我们要健康!国际组织规定这类项目要在距城市100公里以外开发!我们厦门距此项目才16公里啊!为了我们的子孙后代,行动吧!参加万人游行,时间六月一日上午八点起,由所在地向市政府进发!手绑黄色丝带!见短信群发给厦门所有朋友!

English translation:

Taiwan top fugitive Chen You-hao and Xianglu Group’s joint venture has already begun construction of the PX plant at Haicang. Once this extremely poisonous chemical is produced, it will be like an atomic bomb for the people of Xiamen, we will have leukemia and deformed babies. We want to live, we want to be healthy! International groups prescribe that this kind of plant must be at least 100 km from cities, but our Xiamen is only 16 km away! For the sake of our grandchildren, take action! Join the 10,000 people march, beginning at the 1st of June at 8:00. We will march towards the City Hall. Wear a yellow arm ribbon! When you read this message, send it to all your friends in Xiamen.

On May 30 the local authorities held a press conference and declared that the project would be put on hold in response to public opinion (reported by Xinhua). Despite this, demonstrations went ahead on the 1st of June. Zola (“China’s first citizen reporter”) was there and reported both via his blog and twitter, as did shizhao. Good English information on the demonstrations has been provided by Jeremy Goldkorn and John Kennedy. More than 10,000 people attended the demonstrations that even continued for a second day. Although there were some reports of injuries, the authorities seem to have kept calm and not interfered much.


Oppose PX, Protect Xiamen

The end of this story has yet to come, but it seems unlikely that the project could go on when the public opinion is so massively against it. This represents a victory of the grassroots against the authorities, who have done their best to suppress reporting on the protests. The graffiti mentioned earlier has become a symbol in an Internet campaign to oppose PX which has been popping up on several of my favorite blogs the last few days:


Pass on the yellow ribbon, care for Xiamen

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