Kunming’s anti-PX protest movement broke through to new heights on Thursday as more than 2500 protesters took to the city’s downtown streets. The unexpected success of this impressive NIMBY movement has empowered protesters to shift targets – what began two weeks ago as a movement opposing the construction of a polluting chemical plant attached to a PetroChina oil refinery 40km from the city center has evolved into a full blown protest against the entire 10mn ton oil refinery project. Throughout the morning the protesters worked a powerful and persistent ground game breaking through rank after rank of public security forces to gain total control of Kunming’s downtown streets by noon. Protesters marched in peaceful and non-violent demonstration for more than five hours under the intense Kunming sun and prompted an engaging appearance of Kunming mayor Li Wenrong who sympathized with protesters and promised immediate change – another breakthrough victory for this growing social movement. 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
Saturday’s peaceful protest in Kunming may be the first of many against a polluting PX chemical plant slated for construction inside Kunming’s city limits. Nearly 2000 people participated in the well organized protest, and the crowd met zero resistance from the 200+ police and public security officers sent to the site to maintain order. For more than three hours, citizens wore “No PX” face masks and paraded around the protest site waving banners and posters sporting slogans like “PX project, get out of Kunming” and “I want green!” Different from other protests I’ve seen in China, the organizers divided the site into teach-in zones where crowds of hundreds could listen to those who had a message to deliver. In the end, no arrests were made and there were zero scuffles between protesters or with the police.