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Mixed signals and smokescreens: Kunming’s government responds to Anti-PX protests

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

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