11 April 2007

While there is much discussion of the Internet campaign surrounding the Nail House and the triumph of individual property rights over the entrenched interests of the state and developers, there has been no coverage in the major media about another Internet campaign underway to protect an entire city from the same writ on a much larger scale. Over the past week I was on holiday as my parents were visiting. Before bringing them to Quanzhou, where I currently live, we spent the weekend in neighboring Xiamen on the island of Gulangyu. A former colonial concession, Gulangyu is a small picturesque island with no cars, motorcycles or scooters, and is relatively unspoiled despite the massive statue of Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) and the organized tours that arrive en masse promptly at 8 am. There is a large aviary, pleasant beaches and a fair amount of greenery. Little did I know that not 7 km away there is a factory beginning to pump out 800,000 tons of the toxic chemical para-xylene (Chinese name 1,4-二甲苯 ).

As John Kennedy at GVO reports, the plant in Haicang just west of Xiamen Island and Gulangyu was originally to meant to be at least 7 km from the city center, though development in the Haicang district has placed schools and residences much closer. No fewer than 105 national CPPCC members have opposed the plant, led by the former president of the Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautic University, a Xiamen University chemistry professor and others. The State Environmental Protection Administration said their hands are tied as the project is invested by the National Development and Reform Commission. PX, the toxic chemical, is a key component in many industrial processes, not least of which are polyester manufacturing and Xiamen’s Eleventh Five Year Plan. Nearby is the Xiamen Rare Marine Species Wildlife Reserve, which is partly for the endangered Chinese white dolphin.

Southern Metropolitan Daily once again is out in front as columnist Lian Yue posts here and here about the problem. A blog has been started devoted to spreading the word called HaicangPX, and Baidu gives about 80,000 hits to “px 厦门”, while Baidu news returns 924. I, for my part, have passed the word to what few influential people I know in Quanzhou, who are passing the word to others, since Quanzhou is quite close and very economically close to Xiamen. Whether anything will be done is another matter, but from what I can tell the subject has not been brought up on any Fujian news websites, and my usually well-informed friends never heard about this.

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