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Rachel Lu

NIMBY Protest in Pearl River Delta — Will Government Relent, Again?

[Update: On July 13, the local government announced that the uranium processing plant project will not proceed without public support.]

Residents of Jiangmen, a medium-size city near Guangzhou, took to the streets to protest against plans to build an uranium processing plant in the area. Photos posted on China’s social media (below) show hundreds of people in front of the local government building, holding banners with anti-nuclear messages. “We want children, not nucleus,“ reads one sign held by two men wearing masks.

Officially, the government is only “soliciting comments” about the project and the plans are not yet final. However, on social media, including Weibo, China’s Twitter, Internet users voiced their worries that the government is trying to ram through a done deal. @隆裕太后 tweeted,

Jiangmen is close to Zhuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong. Plans to build nuclear facilities in the area must be thought through. The local government cannot focus only on the RMB37 billion (US$6 billion) in investment and the GDP and tax revenues that can be generated from the plant, and ignore the feelings of the residents in the area. The NDRC has not approved the project, and the environmental evaluation report has not been completed, the local government is already taking land. Why does the ten-day period for soliciting public opinion contain four public holidays?

@谭小囧 agreed, “I think the part that makes me most uncomfortable is the fact that the government took land and signed contracts before they consulted the public. Surely they wanted to push the project through by force.”

The state-owned media outlets in the Pearl River Delta, as well as Hong Kong media outlets, have reported on the project. The headline on Jiangmen Daily on July 12 reads, “A nuclear fuel rod is safe to be held in hand.” But few Internet users are convinced by such weak reassurance.

Residents also complained that the local policymakers are appointed from above, and do not share the concerns of their constituents. @寒江雪706 tweeted, “The policymakers are outsiders. Do they understand how the people who live in Jiangmen fear nuclear fuel?”

In recent years, NIMBY protests in wealthy coastal areas of China have become high profile affairs, and the government had backed down in the past in the face of public anger.

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.