BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have clashed with hundreds of protesters opposed to the construction of a rubbish depot because of health worries, residents and media said on Thursday, in the latest incident of public anger over the environment.
The demonstrators overturned a police car and scuffled with officers in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, according to photographs on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, posted by the Jingchu Network, a website run by the provincial propaganda department.
Four residents told Reuters by telephone that the protests had been going on for at least four days and the police had detained several protesters.
“If this problem isn’t resolved, we will continue to protest,” said a protester who declined to be identified.
“We don’t want to cause trouble, all we want is to defend our rights.”
Environmental degradation resulting from China’s breakneck economic growth has angered an increasingly well-educated and affluent population.
Reports of “mass incidents”, a euphemism for protests, have become increasingly common in China, triggered by corruption, pollution and other grievances.
The violence in Wuhan began late on Wednesday, according to online posts.
A crowd of people gathered outside a construction site where the garbage collection station is to be built, because they were worried about the health impact, according to Jingchu Network.
Online pictures showed residents holding placards that said: “Reject garbage”, and police appearing to manhandle a resident.
“Police are beating people and dragging them, it’s really violent,” said another resident. “I feel really sorry for the people. They are just defending their homes.”
Police in Huangpi could not be reached for comment.
A notice on Tuesday from the Wuhan Panlong City Economic Development Zone Management Committee said the government had scrapped plans to build the garbage collection station and construction at the site had nothing to do with it.
A committee employee told Reuters the residents had confused the construction of a neighboring residential project with that of the garbage station.
Residents said construction of the rubbish dump had not stopped.
The protest comes amid an air pollution crisis in China’s north. On Thursday, the Beijing government lifted a pollution “red alert” after heavy smog that had shrouded the capital cleared.
A red alert is triggered when the government believes air quality will surpass a level of 200 on an air-quality index, that measures various pollutants, for at least three days.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel