Police wearing riot gear try to disperse protesters in Maoming, March 31. (Internet photo)
Authorities in Maoming in southern China's Guangdong province said that no one was killed following police action to disperse protesters marching against the construction of a new paraxylene (PX) plant on March 30. This claim has been squashed however by those attending the rally, while netizens said that at least eight protesters were killed and more than 200 people were injured, reports our sister paper Want Daily.
More than 1,000 protesters took part in the protest in front of a government building in Maoming on Sunday morning to oppose the local government's plan to build the new factory. PX is a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and polyester, and is known for its potential environmental hazards.
The internet has been flooded with images and video from the protest, detailing the injuries sustained during the clash that ensued. The Maoming government has banned the press from entering the city ever since, increasing the police presence while continuing to claim that no one was killed.
In a statement on March 31, the local government said that the protesters had carried out an illegal rally, adding that in regards to the factory, "if the majority of people are against it, the city government won't make a decision contrary to public opinion."
Meanwhile, the Maoming Police Department issued its own statement on April 1 stating that a number of citizens had vandalized public facilities and thus action was taken under the law. The police urged the public to speak out via peaceful and logical ways.
Rumors continue to spread on China's social media sites however, with claims that several protesters were killed in the chaos. Internet users in Maoming have also described the police shooting tear gas and using water cannons to disperse the crowds. To control the rumors, censors have jumped in to ban the search term "Maoming" and to delete posts about the protests, according to the Tokyo-based Diplomat.