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Violent protests against planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming, Guangdong, China

Industrial conflicts and pollution while the local government allegedly seeks a balance between "development and stability"


Protests against a proposed paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming, Guangdong, caught the attention of national and international media for its intensity and scale. On the first day of the protests (30 March, 2014), hundreds of protests appeared on the streets, with clashes with police and reports of tear gas being launched at protesters. Many were injured, with photos on social media circulating images of police chasing protesters with batons. The Maoming government has called the unauthorised protest "a serious offence" and urged residents to "trust the government and not give illegal elements the opportunity to cause chaos” [1]. The reported turnout was reported to have reached 1000 people.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Violent protests against planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming, Guangdong, China
State or province:Guangdong
Location of conflict:Maoming
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Chemical products
paraxylene (PX)
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Level of Investment:559,243,930
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:30/03/2014
End of the conflict:04/04/2014
Company names or state enterprises:China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec ) from China - Developer
Relevant government actors:Maoming, Guangdong and Shenzhen local authorities; deputy mayor of Maoming Luo Yueliang
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Concerned Chinese netizens and local residents
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Fires, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsThe main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, which can occur with exposure up to air levels of about 100 ppm. [...] Long term exposure can lead to depression, insomnia, agitation, extreme tiredness, tremors, impaired concentration and short-term memory. [...] At very high levels of exposure, xylene can injure the liver and kidneys, with the damage being irreversible. [...] Xylene inhaled by a woman can reach a developing fetus and can contaminate her breast milk" [5]
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The government has shelved the plan for now, but it is unclear whether the protesters' voices and opinions will be heard and taken into consideration in future plans for such projects.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The Maoming Anti-PX Protest of 2014

An environmental movement in contemporary China
[click to view]

[1] China Maoming environmental protest violence condemned
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[2] Maoming Protests Continue in Southern China
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[3] Shenzhen becomes third city to join protests over Maoming chemical plant
[click to view]

[4] Xinhua Insight: PX protests expose government struggle between development, stability
[click to view]

[5] Xylene: An overview of its health hazards and preventive measures
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford
Last update18/08/2019
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