Chinese farmers protest solar panel plant pollution, Haining, 2011

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Timing
Time Period:  
15 September
2011
to
20 September
2011
Location and Goals
Country: 
China
Location City/State/Province: 
Haining, Zhejiang Province
Location Description: 
Industrial City of 640,000
Goals: 
Farmers sought government investigation into the cause of death of fish in local streams, and demanded that environmental regulations be enforced at the JinkoSolar panel plant.
 

Since April 2011 the JinkoSolar plant near the industrial city of Haining failed local Environmental Protection Bureau pollution tests. Throughout late August and early September 2011, local residents found a large quantity of dead fish in streams and rivers near the plant. On Thursday September 15, 2011, approximately 500 local farmers and residents gathered at the JinkoSolar plant to demand an end to the pollution. Due to lack of information, it is unclear which individuals or groups organized and orchestrated this demonstration.

The JinkoSolar plant in Haining is a subsidiary of the Chinese JinkoSolar Holding Company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The plant manufactured solar panels for sale overseas.

Protesters gathered at the gates of the Haining Plant, chanting and demonstrating peacefully for most of Thursday September 15. On Friday September 16 a group of police officers reportedly attempted to disperse the protesters with force. Though the chronology of events is somewhat unclear, it is known that some protesters proceeded into the offices of the plant and destroyed some company property. Some protesters also destroyed 8 company vehicles and 4 police cars following the September 16th police action.

The Chinese Government ordered JinkoSolar to close the plant on September 19 to investigate the source of pollution and the cause for the fish deaths. As of September 20, most of the protesters had dispersed, though it is again unclear as to which groups or individuals made these decisions on the ground.

JinkoSolar recently made a public statement that a large chemical discharge did in fact escape the plant during heavy rain last August. Ensuing water sample tests showed high levels of fluoride in waters near the plant. Fluoride can be toxic in high amounts. The company made a public apology, and was fined the equivalent of $74,000 by the Chinese Government. It is unclear when and if the plant will reopen (as of November 2011).

By the end of the 3-4 day protest 20 of the 500 protesters had been arrested on charges of disturbing public order, destruction of property, and larceny. At least one case has been reported in which a blogger, commenting on the health effects of JinkoSolar pollution in the Haining community, was seized by police and charged with “spreading false rumors” by the Chinese government. The blogger had been charging JinkoSolar pollution as the cause of increased cancer rates near the plant.

Chinese government officials went to Haining following the closure of the plant to hear local residents’ grievances. Haining’s city government released a statement indicating that they intended to “seriously deal with those suspected of violating laws in the incident.” It is unclear if this statement was intended for the company or the protesters.

Haining residents were likely inspired by a recent series of successful grassroots environmental protests throughout China. In August 2011 some 12,000 residents marched and demonstrated against a chemical plant charged with pollution in the city of Dalian, in north-eastern China. This protest effectively closed the plant (which has since moved location), and since then a series of resident communities throughout China have initiated protest against pollution.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The Haining citizens were likely influenced by successful grassroots environmental protests in August, including one in which 12,000 protesters successfully campaigned for the removal of a chemical plant in the city of Dalian. (1)

Sources: 
"BBC News - China Solar Panel Factory Shut after Protests." BBC - Homepage. British Broadcasting Corporation, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14968605>.

"China Shuts Factory after Pollution Protest - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph Online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. The Telegraph, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8773738/China-shuts-factory-after-pollution-protest.html>.

"China Solar Panel Plant Shuts Done." Taipei Times- World News. The Taipei Times, 20 Sept. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2011. <http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2011/09/20/2003513736>.

Kaiman, Jonathan. "China Closes Solar-panel Plant after Protests - Los Angeles Times." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 20 Sept. 2011. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. <http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/20/world/la-fg-china-solar-20110920>.

"Violent Protests against Pollution Force Chinese City's Government to Close Solar Panel Plant - The China Post." China Post Online - Taiwan, News, Breaking News, World News, and News from Taiwan │英文報紙│英文時事│英文新聞-英文中國郵報. The China Post, 20 Sept. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2011. <http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/local-news/shanghai/2011/09/20/317248/Violent-protests.htm>.

Additional Notes: 
Due to the heavy reliance on foreign news media and concern with accuracy, researchers should be encouraged to pursue Chinese sources as they become more available. It should be noted that Chinese sources may overstate protester violence.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Pauline Blount, 06/10/2011