|18 arrested over Maoming chemical plant protest
Police in a southern Chinese city detained 18 people after a protest against a planned chemical plant turned violent over the weekend, local authorities said Thursday.
The suspects were accused of disrupting order and causing trouble, according to a transcript of a news conference provided by the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily, AP reports.
Another 15 people, including four police officers, were hospitalized with injuries, but no one died from the protest violence, contrary to some media reports, health officials said.
More than 1,000 people gathered in front of Maoming city's Communist Party offices on Sunday to protest plans to build a plant to manufacture paraxylene, a chemical used in the production of plastic bottles and polyesters. Similar plants have been opposed across China because of health concerns, especially among members of China's growing middle class. The opposition has posed a challenge to local officials, who must strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection.
The protest was initially peaceful but turned violent after police reinforcements arrived and tear gas was fired to disperse the demonstrators.
At around 10 pm, about 20 people on motorbikes threw bricks, stones and bottles at riot police, destroyed traffic signs and set fire to roadside police booths, eyewitness Chen Yifeng told The Associated Press.
Deputy Mayor Liang Luoyue said Thursday that some hooligans took advantage of the situation, overturning a private vehicle, attacking the party offices with stones and glass bottles, and smashing shops.
"Such acts severely violated the state law, badly disrupted social order and affected the normal work and living of local residents,'' Liang said.