Villagers in Yinggehai demonstrate against revived plans to build a power plant in their area. (Internet photo)
Six months after Yinggehai, a town of roughly 18,000 located in the Li ethnic autonomous county in Ledong in southern China's island province of Hainan, launched an anti-government rally against a plan for a power plant to be built by China Guodian, a state-run power producer, the town has witnessed another large-scale protest over the rights of local residents.
About 6,000 villagers and 3,000 local police have been in a standoff for multiple days. The police used tear gas against the villagers, wounding and detaining many. Riot police have blocked off all the roads and the word "Yinggehai" has been blocked by China's internet censors, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
The State Power Hainan Southwest Power Plant Project, in cooperation with the Ledong local government and China National Power Group, decided to in March to build a coal-fired power plant in Yinggehai. Residents protested on environmental and health grounds, and on April 11 staged a rally attended by 10,000 people. The government decided to change the location of the proposed plant, but the two new sites chosen were rejected by local residents in those places as well.
Six months later, the project reverted back to Yinggehai.
A number of residents told reporters that most of the men in the village were out fishing when they learned a ribbon-cutting and plaque-unveiling ceremony would be held on Oct. 16. Hundreds of the town's women subsequently gathered in front of the local government building. Others surrounded the entrance of the local fishery bureau day and night to prevent the authorities from taking out the plaque and finishing the ribbon-cutting ceremony. On the evening of Oct. 16, the police began to guard the entrance of the government complex, prompting a clash that lasted for two days.
The conflict escalated on the evening of Oct. 18. The villagers claim that a dozen official vehicles arrived at the building, with thousands of armed police stationed and deployed along the fishery bureau. Police guarded all the entrances into the town and all incoming and outgoing traffic was blocked, except for small vehicles.
Police broke through the civilian blockade and reclaimed the plaque from the fishery bureau on the same night. A woman was injured during the conflict and two people were taken away. One of them had also been taken away by the authorities during the protest in April.
The villagers then gathered to demand the release of villagers being detained. During the confrontation, the two parties clashed and police used tear gas on the crowd. A number of people were reportedly injured in the fighting that lasted two days. Villagers tried to prevent the police from cleaning the road the next day to clear away evidence of the confrontation, but were unsuccessful.