Tensions Rise in Eastern China over Chemical Factory Protests, Despite Govt Promises

Protest victory for environmental activists or false promises?

After a three days of tense protests by thousands of Chinese citizens over the expansion of a hotly contested petrochemical factory near the city of Ningbo, local Chinese officials announced Sunday that they would halt their toxic plans.

However, protesters continued to express outrage throughout the day on Sunday. Outside government offices in Ningbo an official tried to read the statement on a loudspeaker but was drowned out by shouts demanding the mayor step down and that authorities release protesters being held inside, according to the Associated Press.

"There is very little public confidence in the government," said Liu Li, 24, a Ningbo resident. "Who knows if they are saying this just to make us leave and then keep on doing the project."

Hundreds of people refused to leave the scene, as riot police returned for the third day to push the crowd back. Police dragged more protesters into the governmental compound, beating and kicking at least three of them, according to local reports.

The factory is a subsidiary of Sinopec, one of the biggest petrochemical companies in the world. The protests began a few days earlier in the coastal district of Zhenhai, where the petrochemical factory is located. On Saturday thousands marched to the center of Ningbo city, where the scene turned violent after authorities used tear gas and arrested participants.

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