By BRIAN SPEGELE
BEIJING -- Protests against a planned oil refinery and petrochemicals facility broke out in
southwest China for the second time this month, as pressure
mounted on local leaders over environmental impact of the project.
Local activists are demanding that officials scrap plans to
produce the chemical paraxylene, known as PX, as part of the refinery under construction nearby. Many are
outraged that local officials won't release the results of an
environmental impact assessment of the project, according to activists and
Production of PX in proximity to urban centers is of
particular concern for those who fear industrial mishaps at the
facilities could put the health of
local residents and the environment at risk.
Kunming's mayor, Li Wenrong, last week promised to take into
account opposition to the planned petrochemical facility, even
pledging to scrap the project if a majority of residents
Opposition to the project has so far largely targeted
the planned petrochemicals facility, though some
residents say they oppose the oil refinery as well being in proximity
to the city.
PX production is booming in China. The chemical is a
critical building block in the production of textiles and
plastics, and industry advocates say under normal conditions it
can be produced safely and without threat to humans.
But its production has repeatedly come under fire in recent
years from residents in multiple Chinese cities who fear it
will damage their health as well as the environment. Following
protests in 2007 in the eastern city of Xiamen, local officials
pledged to move a planned PX plant away from the popular
Similarly, in 2011, officials promised to close a plant in
the northeast city of Dalian after more than 10,000 people took
to the streets in protest of PX production there. State media
reported in December that relocation work for the Dalian plant
was still under way.
Concerns over transparency and locating the planned refinery
so close to the city underpin resistance in Kunming. Residents
have demanded officials release results of a government
required environmental impact assessment. Others have called
for third party groups to be allowed to conduct an independent
assessment of the planned refinery, which has already been
approved by China's National Development and Reform Commission,
its top economic planning body.
Dow Jones Newswires