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China's People Power Foils Nuclear Plans

Following protests, local government announces they will scrap plans to build uranium processing facility

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Protestors, who oppose the plans for a uranium-processing facility in Heshan, parade through a street in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, China on July 12, 2013. (Photo: Kyodo News/AP)An upswell of people power has thwarted plans to build a multi-billion dollar nuclear park in southern China.

Authorities from the city of Heshan in the Guangdog province announced Saturday that they would scrap plans to build the Longwan Industrial Park uranium processing plant following a day of the mass mobilization of more than a thousand local residents.

"[P]rotesters paraded through the streets of Jiangmen [which administers Heshan] on Friday, holding banners and wearing T-shirts with phrases opposing the project while chanting slogans," AP reports.

"'Give us back our rural homes. We are against nuclear radiation,' they shouted in scenes seen in television video."

According to China Daily, the protesters were particularly upset by this project because the proposed site for the plant lay less than 20 miles away from the heart of the city.

"We don't need such a project to boost the economy. Instead, we need a healthy living environment," Huang, a resident, told China Daily.

Responding to their call, city officials said they had no choice but to abandon the plan "in order to fully respect the opinion of the masses."

"We pay respect to the residents' opinion and will not apply for approval for the project," Wu Yuxiong, mayor of Heshan, said during a news conference Saturday.

The people's victory follows similar successes. In May, protests in Shanghai forced battery maker Shanghai Guoxuan New Energy Co. to abandon plans for a factory on the outskirts of the city. And a planned petrochemical plant spurred demonstrations in the southwestern city of Kunming.

“Chinese civil society is getting stronger,” Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam told Bloomberg News. “People now realize if their numbers are big enough, if they are united and stand their ground, the government will back down.”

Bloomberg continues:

Opposition to the uranium facility underscores growing concern among China’s expanding middle class that industrial plants damage the environment and people’s health. Pollution has replaced land grabs as the primary cause of social unrest with many of the protests erupting in more prosperous coastal cities such as Shanghai and Ningbo where residents have deployed smart-phones and used social media to organize their campaigns.

The Longwan project was owned by China National Nuclear Corporation, the main body of the country's nuclear technology industry.

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