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The Fujia Petrochemical Paraxylene (PX) Plant protest in Dalian, Liaoning, China


As Typhoon Meihua battered China’s east coast in early August, a dyke protecting China’s largest manufacturer of paraxylene (PX) was washed away, bringing the plant’s existence to the attention of the local population and triggering public safety fears (Tang Hao, China Dialogue, 6 September 2011).

Over 10,000 residents of the north-eastern city of Dalian gathered in front of the municipal government building to express opposition to the project, demanding the plant be moved and the full details made public (ibid). Demonstrators said they feared a natural disaster could wreak havoc on their city if it damaged the PX plant and exposed residents to the toxic chemical. Officials have said there was no leak at the plant (Kathleen McLaughlin, Global Post, 15 August 2011).

Xinhua said the city's top official, Tang Jun, had tried to calm the crowd on Sunday but the protesters showed no sign of dispersing (BBC, 14 August 2011). There were no reports of injuries in the scuffles during which riot police were deployed to shield the municipal government office (ibid). Photographs posted on the internet on Sunday showed protesters, including children, marching under such banners as "I love Dalian and reject poison" and "Give me back my home and garden! PX out! Protect Dalian!" (ibid).

Though the dyke was subsequently repaired, fears persisted amongst the local residents about the potential for leakage of poisonous chemicals (BBC, 14 August 2011).

Wang Canfa, an environmental law professor and director of the Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), noted that the Dalian plant was illegal to begin with because it hadn’t passed a mandated environmental assessment (Kathleen McLaughlin, Global Post, 15 August 2011). Hao echoes this by observing that "available material shows that construction of the PX project violated regulations...[since the plant] is located just 20 kilometres from the city centre – closer than is permitted by government standards. [Furthermore], the plant started production before the environmental authorities had even authorized trial operations" (China Dialogue, 6 September 2011).

While this case appears to illustrate the power of the local citizenry in getting their voices and demands heard by the local government, commentators have noted that "moving the plant outside the city only makes it somebody else’s problem" (Kathleen McLaughlin, Global Post, 15 August 2011). However, there were reports on Monday that the plant was operating normally despite the order to shut down. A source told Reuters the plant was continuing to carry shipments from regular suppliers such as Iran and Papua New Guinea (ibid).

In early December 2012, an apparently leaked document was circulated online, suggesting that the plant has passed fresh safety checks and was preparing to resume production (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 13 January 2012). The government and the factory declined to confirm or deny the reports. "I cannot tell you if Fujia has resumed production," said Yang Guang of the Dalian Propaganda Office. "We are still planning to move the plant to Xizhong Island. That is a government decision. But it takes time." (ibid). The problems of oversight were apparent in the response of the Dalian Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) to the Guardian's queries about the status of the PX plant. "We don't have the authority to supervise it. Call someone else in the government," said an official (ibid).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:The Fujia Petrochemical Paraxylene (PX) Plant protest in Dalian, Liaoning, China
State or province:Liaoning
Location of conflict:Dalian
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:Paraxylene
Chemical products

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Fujia petrochemical plant has the capacity to produce 700,000 tonnes of paraxylene (PX) per year, generating tax revenues of almost £200m a year (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 13 January 2012).

Level of Investment:1,500,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:6,690,432 (2010 census - 大连市2010年第六次全国人口普查主要数据公报)
Start of the conflict:14/08/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Dalian Fujia Dahua Petrochemical Co., Ltd. ( Fujia Dahua ) from China - The Dalian PX plant is jointly owned by the city and Fujia Dahua.
Relevant government actors:The Dalian municipal government office (Tang Jun), the Dalian Propaganda Office (Yang Guang), the Dalian Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available: The Dalian Environmental Protection Volunteer Association (Tang Zailin), Dalian residents, concerned netizens

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impacts"The 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" (Kandyala et al. 2010).
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsAbsence of the rule of law -- "Following the uproar, Dalian authorities ordered the managers of the Fujia Dahua facility immediately to halt production and relocate their plant: the public campaign had concluded with the government bowing to public opinion – on the surface, a triumph. But the whole case highlights how, in the absence of strong rule of law, China’s environmental management has taken the road of what I call “interaction without rules”. This brings its own set of problems. On environmental issues, “interaction without rules” normally goes through three stages: first, local interest groups and local governments push ahead with a polluting project in violation of environmental regulations. Second, local people spontaneously organise mass protests against the project in question, an activity supported by neither law nor policy. And third, in response to the threat to social stability created by the protests, local government halts the project – again, breaching laws. At every stage, the existing rules are lightly cast aside by all participants (Tang Hao, China Dialogue, 6 September 2011).


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:The Dalian PX plant is believed to have resumed production since January 2012, with no concrete plans for relocation.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:According to Jonathan Watts from the Guardian (13 January 2012): "The Fujia Petrochemical PX plant in Dalian was shut down after more than 10,000 people took to the streets on 14 August 2011 to demand its relocation on public safety grounds. In a bid to placate the urban, middle-class crowd, Dalian city leaders announced that they would move the factory to an industrial park on Xizhong Island. [However], the plant is believed to have quietly resumed production just months after officials promised to halt operations and move the facility. [...] Domestic critics believe the authorities may be having second thoughts because the factory has been licensed for several years and its closure would result in a significant loss of income and a large compensation payout for breach of contract."

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Public storm in Dalian

China protest closes toxic chemical plant in Dalian

China: Protesters win in Dalian

Controversial Chinese chemical plant believed to have resumed production

Meta information

Last update25/07/2014