Chinese chemical plant expansion halted

Oct. 30, 2012 at 7:01 AM

BEIJING, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Chinese authorities scrapped plans to expand a petrochemical plant in the face of protest, though critics said its part of a pattern of political appeasement.

Authorities in the Chinese coastal city of Ningbo last weekend announced plans to halt the $8.8 billion expansion of Sinopec's petrochemical plant in the region. Residents in the region told The New York Times the government's decision was "just a way to ease tensions."

The Communist Party in China meets Nov. 8 for its 18th Party Congress, a move that would ratify the first leadership change in years.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, expressed optimism that Chinese leaders were listening to the public but said he was concerned over wasted revenue.

"Ignoring public concerns leads to confrontation. We can't resolve all our environmental issues through street action," he told the Times. "The cost is just too high."

Residents had expressed concern about the potential production of paraxylene, a potentially toxic chemical used in plastics and paints.

Protests began last week when residents blocked a road to the existing refinery. Demonstrations turned violent last weekend.

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