Chinese rioters assault battery factory

Here we go again in the land of perennial reform. This time, the rioting villagers were expressing their dissatisfaction at the local battery factory for poisoning their children.

Hundreds of Chinese villagers have marched on a battery factory which they say is poisoning their children and held 1,000 workers hostage, residents and officials said.

About 600 people from Jianxia village in the eastern province of Zhejiang took control of the Zhejiang Tianneng Battery company and barricaded workers inside, resident Han Cheng told AFP Thursday.

But a promise made Thursday afternoon by factory managers to stop production and carry out investigations helped defuse the tense five-day standoff.

“The problem has been more or less solved this afternoon,” said a resident surnamed Huang in the village 150 kilometres south of Shanghai.

“Most people have started to go home after negotiations with officials and police and the factory will stop production for 15 days,” said Huang.

“Factory leaders gave their promises and people are sort of satisfied for now, but now it remains to be seen if they’ll keep their promises.”

Infuriated residents from the village of about 3,000 marched on the factory on Sunday, saying the pollution it produces when making car batteries is making their children ill.

“There are about 200 children in the village and they are all getting sick,” said Han, who has a four-year-old daughter. “They are polluting the air and it has been going on for 15 years.”

There’s lots of foreign investment in the offending company, so there may be some blame to go around. Considering the country’s environmental catastrophe, I’d think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. Citizens everywhere are being poisoned, and the Chinese seem to get particularly upset when they see their children made violently ill. When people are facing that reality, there’s little you can do to contain or assuage their anger. There’s nothing for them to lose.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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The Discussion: 4 Comments

It is about time! Let me tell some more information that will not be appearing (likely) in the newspapers. I have gotten this information as I travel to Chanxing county several times a year to visit my in-laws.

The battery factory has been a source of friction and protest for years. Last year the children of the peasants in Meishan were tested by a school. Many tested positive for some degrees of lead poisoning. The local villagers got angry and organized a protest. They blocked the factory gates for a morning and returned home when asked to dispurse. They waited, while nothing happened.

A few months later, the peasants-feeling aggrieved and ignored-blocked the gates again. This time they invited several journalists, both print and TV. After a tense day long standoff, all went home.

This time, there were no reports, but there was action. Several of the “organizers” were arrested. However, the local government provided medicine to help the children.

June 30, 2005 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

This is but one of 1000s of similar situations in industrial China. One thing that galls me about the current free trade model is the justification used for closing factories in the Western world. So many times, I hear the words “Chinese factories are more efficient”. What should really be said is “you can keep your job but we will remove all pollution mitigation controls, slash your salary and ask you to work longer hours”.

We have to get away from this collective blindness over the definition of economic efficiency. We all clap our hands when more work safety initiatives are implemented, salaries rise, hours reduce but only if it is in our own backyard.

The other backyard is starting to look pretty bad but only if we choose to look.

June 30, 2005 @ 8:16 pm | Comment

Another riot, this time in college campus:

Some aftermath photos

July 1, 2005 @ 6:49 am | Comment

Another proof of the power of the Internet. Optimists may be right.

July 1, 2005 @ 6:50 am | Comment

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