The English language discussion of Kunming’s ongoing environmental protests should not exclude China’s official media reports. The translation below is of a 5/28 article from the Southern Weekend website.
Yunnan’s Anning City Retracts Notice on Face Mask Registration
from Southern Weekend （南方周末）May 28, 2013
More than 200 copies of a ‘Letter of Guarantee’ have been signed by vendors of advertising services, printing services, copy services, face masks, and t-shirts. These vendors promise to strictly follow national laws and regulations regarding their commercial business and promise not to speak of rumors, create rumors, or spread rumors. They promise not to participate in any form of information broadcasting, forwarding of messages, and not to participate in sit-ins, protests, or demonstrations of any kind. They promise to not print, create, or publish things related to the Anning PetroChina Oil Refinery or the “China-South Asia “Expo or advertisements, propaganda materials, or any materials of negative influence. This “Letter of Guarantee” goes into effect on the day of signing and is valid through June 30, 2013 and sales of all services above must also be accompanied by ID registration of the purchaser. –Official statement from the Kunming Economic Development Zone Industry and Commerce Bureau.
The exposure of Anning’s required ID registration of face mask purchases has stirred up considerable public debate. On the evening of 5/25, the Anning City government’s press office issued a statement saying Anning’s Industry and Commerce Bureau will retract the notice on face mask registration. But according to a report on 5/27, the “Procedure for registration of face mask purchases” was still in effect for much of the Kunming municipality and was not exclusive to Anning City. Registration is still required for printing, copying, and publication services. Continue reading
Kunming’s ongoing protest against the construction of a 10mn ton petroleum refinery 40km from the city center continues to gather attention in China’s domestic media and in the international media. Yet despite continuous coverage of the protest in China’s Global Times, South China Morning Post, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and most recently the Atlantic (among many other media outlets), questions concerning the gravity of the protests continue to pop up in online chat forums: Does a protest of 1000+ Chinese citizens in a city of 7 million have impact? Given the numbers, does the average Kunming citizen know about this issue? Can protests of this scale force changes to policy agendas?
ExSE’s answer to all three of those questions is an unequivocal YES. Kunming mayor Li Wenrong would have not made an impromptu engagement with protesters last Thursday if he didn’t see the movement as a legitimate challenge to the status quo. He followed through on his promise to open a Sina Weibo account by noon on 5/18 and since then he’s gathered more than 75000 followers. Further, an online poll created after the initial 5/4 protest exceeded its limit of 100,000 responses within three days. The poll asked a simple yes or no question: Should there be a PX plant in Anning? An overwhelming majority of 80% ticked “no.” It’s no surprise that the poll’s weblink was eradicated last week. Admittedly, there is no way of knowing whether Li Wenrong’s 75k followers are mostly from Kunming, and online polls are never without bias; but the large numbers undeniably say something and suggest that the 2000+ protesters are representative of a much larger group of concerned citizens. Continue reading
On Saturday, 5/11 anyone with cellular service registered to the Kunming municipality received two brief text messages concerning the city’s recent anti-PX protests. Sent from the Kunming’s official propaganda offices, the messages when read separately state the key decision makers deciding the fate of the polluting PX plant are willing to increase transparency and engage with the public on this issue. However, when read together, the messages send mixed signals and suggest decision makers are creating a smoke-screen to stem a planned protest scheduled for later this week and buy time for the safe passage of the PX plant.
The first text message reads:
“Kunming Mayor Li Wenrong expresses that after the ‘By-products projects attached to the PetroChina Oil refinery feasibility study’ is finished at the end of July, he will use democratic decision making processes and stringently act on this issue in accordance to the needs of majority of the masses.”
This message suggests the mayor could follow China’s environmental law by conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the PX plant (the by-product project he mentions) and releasing the findings to the public. It also suggests he could hold a public hearing before approval for the PX project is granted – another legal requirement. Both of these measures were directly demanded at last week’s protests attended by more than 2000 participants in downtown Kunming, so perhaps the city government is willing to play ball AND more importantly, follow the law.
The second text message reads:
“The CEO of Yunnan PetroChina expresses that the Kunming Anning Oil Refinery project is a fuel processing plant that producing State 5 Grade gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This project will not include PX processing equipment and will not produce PX.”
Read separately, this message suggests the issue has concluded, and Kunmingers can put down their protest posters. With no PX plant in the works, why show up for this week’s protest, right? Continue reading