The people of China are pissed. On the long list of injustices they endure, from internet censorship to having their homelands flooded by reservoirs, nothing is inspiring more uprisings than the abuse of their environment.
Retired Communist Party official Chen Jiping said that there were as many as 50,000 riots and protests in the country last year, and that pollution has replaced land disputes as the main cause of unrest. From Bloomberg:
“The major reason for mass incidents is the environment, and everyone cares about it now,” Chen told reporters at a meeting of the Chinese People’s Political and Consultative Conference, where he’s a member. “If you want to build a plant, and if the plant may cause cancer, how can people remain calm?”
Fear of revolt could be helping to fuel a slew of green initiatives announced recently by leaders in Beijing. But the ruling Community Party, which is in the midst of a leadership transition, also wants to quash rebellion.
China has sentenced 16 people to up to a year-and-a-half in prison for involvement in an environmental protest last July when a crowd of thousands ransacked government offices, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
A court in Qidong city, 65 km (40 miles) north of Shanghai, charged the group of demonstrators with “gathering to assault state organs, damaging property and theft” during the July 28 demonstration against a pipeline for waste from a paper factory.
The protest exemplified a growing environmental awareness and willingness of urban people to voice concern about industrial pollution. At the same time, the ruling Communist Party worries that protests can undermine social order.
Power to the Chinese people, y’all.