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Following protests, China shuts down paraxylene plant

18/08/2011


Chinese authorities abruptly shut down a petrochemical plant in the northeastern city of Dalian Sunday, after thousands of protestors jammed city streets to raise concerns about chemical leaks following a tropical storm that lashed the seaside factory, state media reported.
The Fujia Petrochemical Co. factory, which produces paraxylene, a raw material used in making PET resin and polyester fiber, has been closely watched since large waves from tropical storm Muifa breached its dikes Aug. 8 and came within 50 meters of tanks storing toxic chemicals.
China’s Xinhua news service reported that city officials issued a statement six hours after the protest began Sunday, saying the PX factory, one of China’s largest with a production capacity of 700,000 metric tons, would be shut down and relocated.
Xinhua put the size of the crowd at 12,000, while Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said ‘‘tens of thousands’’ of people protested.
While Xinhua said no chemical leaks were reported after the dikes were breached, it said residents were alarmed that the plant is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the center of the city of 6 million people. It said some protestors wanted a clear timetable for relocation.
The Fujia factory is part of a large complex of 38 petrochemical factories.
Chinese media also reported that the factory had been operating since June 2009 but did not get approval from Liaoning provincial environmental protection officials until April 2010.
It’s not the only recent problem at a Dalian petrochemical factory. An explosion at an oil storage facility in July 2010 caused a spill that ‘‘seriously polluted’’ 11 square kilometers of the sea, Xinhua said.
The Dalian protests also draw comparisons to a 2007 march by 10,000 residents against a planned paraxylene factory in another coastal Chinese city, Xiamen, in Fujian province. Those protests also forced the relocation of the factory, Xinhua said.

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