BEIJING (AP) — A protest on Sunday against an incinerator in a southern Chinese town turned violent as some people attempted to break into government offices and police were injured, residents and authorities said.
The protesters in Lubu town in Guangdong province oppose a project to build an incinerator that would also generate power. Residents reached by phone said they had spontaneously taken to the streets by the thousands because they fear the incinerator might contaminate the air and drinking water.
The protest was sparked by an announcement Saturday afternoon by Lubu town government that land requisition work for the project and the project itself were being stopped, without giving any reason.
Residents said people were concerned the halt was just temporary. "The notice was released by Lubu town government, but the project is led by Zhaoqing city government so the notice issued by the town government is not enough," said a resident and restaurant worker who would only gave his surname, Yu.
Protests against incinerators and chemical plants are becoming more frequent in China as citizens' concerns grow over threats to public health. Local governments are faced with the mounting challenge of disposing the waste generated in ever-larger cities, and public distrust over their ability to properly plan, build and manage such projects.
Local authorities tend to announce they will halt plans for incinerators after angry protests by residents, wanting to restore order.
On Sunday, Yu estimated that about 10,000 people had earlier gathered at the town's main street and near a national highway, and that 3,000 or more police officers were present.
A propaganda department of Zhaoqing city's Gaoyao district, which oversees Lubu town with a population of more than 70,000, said police were injured.
In a post on its official Sina Weibo account, Gaoyao's Communist Party committee propaganda department said that around noon "some ordinary people who are unaware of the truth led by some troublemakers attempted to storm the Lubu town government" and attacked and injured some police officers who were trying to maintain order. It said those people should surrender themselves to police and people at the government offices should leave the site immediately.
A man who answered the phone at the propaganda department said he could give no more details. A man who picked up the phone at Lubu police station said he wasn't authorized to talk to the media. A woman from Lubu government said there had been no protest at all and hung up.
The post by the Gaoyao propaganda department was removed later Sunday afternoon. Photos of the protest also posted on Sina Weibo had earlier apparently been taken down by censors.
A resident who only gave her surname, Lin, said the planned incinerator was only about 2 kilometers (a mile) from the town and close to the Xijiang River, and residents had first protested in fewer numbers last weekend.
"We worry about air and water pollution," she said. "The river is a major source of our drinking water."
Associated Press news assistant Henry Hou contributed to this report.