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China chemical plant likely to move following protests: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 7, 2008
A planned chemical plant in southeastern China will likely be built elsewhere, state press said Friday, following sustained and rare protests from residents who labelled it an "atomic bomb."

Work on the billion-dollar petrochemical plant in the major Chinese port of Xiamen was stopped in May last year amid noisy protests that included up to one million mobile phone text messages to government officials.

The plant "should be moved to somewhere else because Xiamen is short of land for the project construction," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Ziamen mayor Liu Cigui as saying on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

"We have proposed to relevant central government departments to relocate the paraxylene (PX) plant."

Liu did not say who would make the final decision on the plant, but the report said that it would "likely" be moved.

PX is a petrochemical used to produce polyesters, but it is also a potential carcinogen if humans come into contact with it.

Protesters had earlier described the plant as a potential "atomic bomb," as an extended campaign to stop construction made national headlines last year.

In China, the communist rulers work overtime to quash any voices of dissent and major organised protests are rare.

Critics say the plant, designed to pump out 800,000 tonnes of PX a year, is only seven kilometres (four miles) from downtown Xiamen and too close to residential areas and schools.

The 10.8-billion-yuan (1.4-billion-dollar) project, owned by a Taiwanese group, was approved by regulators last year and was already under construction.

Industrial pollution has emerged over the past three decades as a huge challenge for China, posing major risks to health and the environment, according to experts.

Pollution and exposure to chemicals in foodstuffs have sent cancer levels soaring in recent years, according to official reports.

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Chinese yellow sand hits Japan, SKorea: officials
Seoul (AFP) March 3, 2008
Hazardous yellow sand from China covered parts of South Korea and Japan on Monday, keeping people indoors as Tokyo pressed Beijing to reveal more information to the public.

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