Heyuan is a prefecture-level city of Guangdong province located in the north-east region of Guangdong, upper reach of Dong River at its confluence with the Xingeng River. It borders Huizhou to the south, Ganzhou (Jiangxi) to the north, Meizhou to the east and Shaoguan to the west. Heyuan is a regional hub that connects the coastal areas of Guangdong and the interior countryside. The majority of the people are Hakka. It is rich in natural resources and fertile land. Many mineral deposits such as iron ore, tungsten, tin, and fluorite are found in Heyuan. It includes many rainforests and the largest lake in Guangdong: Xinfengjiang Reservoir, a major source of the Dongxiang’s water supply to Hong Kong. The literal meaning of the city's name is "origin of the river". It has recently been officially titled as the "Hometown of the Dinosaur in China", due to the thousands of dinosaur egg fossils that have been unearthed in its vicinity.
The Heyuan Power Plant Project is a joint venture of Shenzhen Energy Group and Hong Kong’s Hopewell Holdings. It refers to two phases, in Phase I, a 2 x 600 MW ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant was built in Heyuan City. Unit 1 and Unit 2 in the first phase commenced operation in January 2009 and August 2009, respectively. An additional 2 x 1,000 MW expansion of the power station was planned.  The Guangdong provincial government had explained that the plant was part of a long-term plan to remove heavy industry from Pearl River Delta to the peripheral area of the province, which it claimed would be beneficial for the local economy. Nevertheless, the locals are not buying it. Under the circumstances that more and more people are prioritizing health before development.
According to information on the website of Hopewell Holdings, the power plant is "one of the province's most efficient and environmentally friendly coal-fired power plants". It "was also the first in China to be equipped with a flue gas desulphurization wastewater treatment system". However, Liu Dongbin, a CPPCC member of Heyuan, says that the city recorded only 129 days in the first 11 months of 2014 when the air quality was considered to be "excellent", but back in 2011, the air quality was considered "excellent" every day of the year, Liu was quoted by Xinhuanet as saying. He says the first phase of the power plant has already done so much harm to the environment and he fears the impact would be much greater if the second phase were to go ahead. The plant has already emitted about 30,000 tons of Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide since it came into operation by 2014. Residents are worried that the expansion of the plant could aggravate the already grim environmental pollution. Some villagers living near the city said their orchards have not been able to bear fruit while others complained that the heavy smog in the air keeps them from opening windows during daytime.
In March 2014, residents of Heyuan collected more than 10,000 signatures (more than 30,000 signatures from another source) for a petition against the extension of the existing power plant. Local government officials held a meeting with residents’ representatives to allay concerns over the project. But the assurances failed to convince the people. On 12 April, the protesters, whose number is said to have reached as much as ten thousand at one stage, began their demonstration with a sit-in near the city hall at 8 am, carrying protest signs to voice their opposition to an expansion project of the coal-fired power plant in the city and demanding a dialogue with officials, but then were dispersed by police. More people then joined them on a march through the streets, holding banners that say "power plant get out of here", and "give us back our health and clear blue sky". Protesters staged another sit-in about 200 meters from the administration office around lunchtime and began another march began at 4 pm blocking major roads. The whole protest was peaceful barring minor scuffles between the crowds and special police force. The local Communist Party deputy secretary eventually addressed the crowd, reassuring citizens that the project had not yet been approved, and the protest eventually broke up.
According to some protestors, “this is not just a small fraction of people with an ulterior motive but a concrete outpouring of public opinion from the entire Heyuan public. From babies to the elderly, everyone is appealing to our government to stop polluting our sky”. There are reasons why Heyuan residents are so concerned about the harm the power plant expansion may bring. They take pride in their clear blue sky and clean Dongjiang water, which is also the key supply for several cities including Dongguan, Shenzhen, and Huizhou. "People in Heyuan like me are very proud of the beautiful environment we have. If we lose that, what do we have left? How are we going to attract tourists?" said one resident. 
However at a news conference on Wednesday, 15 April 2014, Heyuan police said that “some Internet users” had used social media to “wantonly incite the public to take part in an illegal demonstration and mass sit-in,”, labelling Sunday’s 10,000-strong protest as “illegal,” and saying they are taking legal action against “many” people for spreading rumors and inciting the protest via social media, both for stirring up the protest, and for “spreading and fabricating rumors online.” The police said the demonstration had “severely damaged public order” and had a “negative social impact.” City government officials also repeated that there was “no basis at all” for rumors that construction of the second phase of the project would start in May – as some demonstrators apparently believed. Officials also denied reports that the new Heyuan project actually involved a power station originally planned for the nearby city of Shenzhen, which was abandoned in the face of public opposition in 2013.
Calling on citizens "not to listen to rumors, or spread them," a city government spokesman, Cheng Yuehua, stressed that work on the project was still in its "preliminary stages," and that the government was still carrying out an environmental impact assessment. When this was finished, he said, the authorities would “announce the results to the people,” carry out “in-depth” public opinion surveys and bring in respected experts to advise on how to proceed. He also said the government would open an office where the public could get information about the project.
Heyuan is located in the upper middle stream of Dongjiang, a branch of Pearl River and the source of Hong Kong’s water supply. Some observers fear that Sulphur dioxide in the air might get dissolved in rain and get into Dongjiang, posing a safety risk to drinking water supply to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and some other places.There are many debates on different internet platforms about pros and cons of the project expansion, and there are also many debates on the validity of the data that the CPPCC member gathered and people heard about.
Months after the protest, Heyuan residents expressed that they do not plan to stage another protest as it appears the investors had postponed immediate expansion plans. Residents started eyeing warily any decision to proceed in the future. And they intend to oppose it, confident that their actions will be successful given how they succeeded in the earlier protest. The EIA report was released by Shenzhen Energy in December 2015. In 2016 China's National Energy Administration issued "scale control" (coal-fired capacity limits) on particular "sending out" locations that feed ultra-high voltage long-distance power lines, including Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Shaanxi. In January 2017 China's NEB directed the Guangdong Province to suspend nine coal projects in the province, including Heyuan power station, due to excess coal capacity. Nevertheless, despite the opposition from local residents, and the restriction from the central government, Heyuan Power Plant unit 3&4 were granted a permit by Guangdong Provincial DRC in March 2017.  The preliminary design and exploration of Phase II project of Heyuan Power Plant officially started at the end of the same month.
The Chinese government has since declared a war on pollution by enforcing stricter emissions and energy use standards on its industry and automobile industry. There are plans to cut the energy intensity of its economy, which is expected to grow at its lowest rate in 25 years. The government will implement policies aimed at reducing coal consumption and controlling energy-intensive projects. There is also a growing movement of non-governmental environmental organizations and activists in China today, as witnessed in the hugely popular documentary by Chai Jing titled "Under the Dome" which was appreciated not only by citizens but also government departments. Commentators on China’s environmental policy said there were elements to the Heyuan demonstration to link it to the ‘Under the Dome’ documentary since it was released and later taken down by the authorities just several weeks before the protest. Indeed some protesters in Heyuan seemed to confirm such fears by saying that the documentary had inspired them to take action. Government researchers have warned that a failure to tackle China’s huge pollution problems in the coming years could stoke public discontent and create “social conflicts.”