Pollution the new main cause of social unrest in China
Pollution has replaced land disputes as the main cause of social unrest in China, according to a delegate of the Chinese People’s Political and Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is meeting in Beijing this week and next.
Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs said China now sees 30,000 to 50,000 so-called mass incidents every year due to the increased use of mobile phones and access to the Internet.
“The major reason for mass incidents is the environment, and everyone cares about it now,” Chen told reporters at the CPPCC meeting. “If you want to build a plant, and if the plant may cause cancer, how can people remain calm?”
Many Chinese netizens have been using social networking sites to reveal the problem of pollution in their home provinces, including a recent discovery of companies using high-pressure wells to dump hazardous waste underground by a Weibo post from social activist Deng Fei.
Despite the government’s efforts to become more transparent about the environment, confrontations between local governments and residents have become increasingly common in the past year. Last October, for example, hundreds Ningbo residents clashed with the police in a protest against the building of a chemical plant.
The number of mass incidents has doubled to at least 180,000 per year between 2006 and 2010, according to Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University.