(Reuters) – Residents of a village in east China accused riot police of heavy-handed tactics after a three-day protest against a solar panel factory accused of dumping toxic waste was brought to an end on Sunday.
“We are being silenced,” said a protester who would only give his surname as Cao, at an industrial park on the outskirts of Haining in Zhejiang province as police in riot gear sealed off the site.
“Some people were beat up during the protests. Why can we just tell the truth about this pollution. Now people talking to reporters are also being detained: what justice is there?”
The protests began on Thursday, when as many as 500 people stormed a compound owned by the New York-listed Jinko Solar Holding Co, official news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Protesters overturned vehicles before being dispersed, but they continued to camp outside the factory until the riot police with helmets, vests, batons and shields arrived late on Sunday.
Toxic waste from the factory, which manufactures photovoltaic panels, cells and wafers, killed large numbers of fish in a nearby river, and authorities had already ordered the company to suspend operations, the news agency said.
Protesters put up banners with the slogan “Return our lives to us, stay away from Jinko,” according to photographs published on the website of the National Business Daily newspaper (www.nbd.com.cn) on Sunday.
An elderly woman who did not want to give her name complained bitterly about the local government’s tactics.
“The factory has been polluting us all this while and now that we make some noise, the government shuts us up. They are all in this together, now we just have to die here silently. You can see all these riot police here, we are just helpless villagers.”
Xinhua quoted an environmental official as saying that Jinko had failed to bring the problem under control and the factory’s waste disposal facilities had been failing pollution tests since April.
Pollution has emerged as one of the biggest problems facing China’s ruling Communist Party, which has struggled to contain growing public anger against industries improperly dumping toxic waste.
Thousands of protesters forced the closure of a deadly paraxylene plant after marching on the city square in northeastern China’s Dalian in August.