Guangzhou residents protest incinerator, 2009


To halt the construction of a planned waste incinerator near the major residential center of Panyu.

Time period notes

Timing of organization of protest via blogs and social media is unknown due to difficulty of tracking.

Time period

23 November, 2009 to 23 November, 2009



Location City/State/Province

Guangzhou, Guangdong

Location Description

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province and a major national port on the Pearl River.
Jump to case narrative


Not known


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Local government, including lead official Lu Zhiyi

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None known

Campaigner violence

No known violence

Repressive Violence

Some sources indicate that the police moved to forcefully disband the protesters once chants began calling for Lu Zhiyi to step down





Group characterization

Middle Class residents

Groups in 1st Segment

Middle class residents

Segment Length

Approximately 4 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

1 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

5 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Public discussions have not led to an agreed-upon new site for the proposed incinerator. The construction of the incinerator has been halted pending this decision.

Database Narrative

According to state reports, the city of Guangzhou released plans for a trash incinerator in the neighborhood of Panyu in 2006.  The trash incinerator was planned by local officials as a means to replace two over-flowing landfills and meet the waste needs of the 2.5 million residents around Panyu.  

When plans were further publicized in fall 2009, local residents insisted that it was the first time they were hearing of the project.  Local polls indicate that over 95% of residents were opposed to the construction of the plant.

Dissent spread quickly amongst the population, who relied heavily on micro blogs, texting, and photo posts to spread information.  The timeline and leadership of the organization of this dissent is unknown.

On Monday morning, 23 November 2009, hundreds of local residents, largely middle-class and young students, gathered at Guangzhou City Hall.  Approximately 200 petitions against the proposed incinerator were delivered, and a number of residents began a sit-in.  By mid-day local bloggers estimated the crowds reached 800 people.

Protesters had pre-printed signs and slogans.  A popular image of a gas-masked protester and sign stating “Oppose garbage burning, protect the environment instead," was spread by bloggers and became an image of the protest.  Other slogans called on officials to “Protect Panyu.”  Some protesters called on local government leader, Lu Zhiyi, to step down.

Local government officials ordered approximately 100 police officers to the scene, and some reports indicate that these officers forcibly dispersed the crowds with riot shields once they began chanting for Lu Zhiyi to step down.

At some time during the day, government officials declared that further research was needed to determine the environmental impact of a trash incinerator at the proposed site.  Officials also promised residents that a public forum would be opened for residents to voice their concerns.  By the end of the day the protesters had largely dispersed.

In April 2011, the Guangzhou municipal government released the names of five possible sites for the incinerator within Panyu, but insisted that all care for the environment and public well-being would be considered.  The Deputy District Executive of Panyu, Dai Youhua said in a press conference, "We promise to use the best technology and facilities. We promise to prioritize the interests of local residents. And we promise strict management and supervision."  The five sites being considered included abandoned rock quarries and empty lots, but concern remained for the effect of fumes on the local resident population.  In order for the construction project to remain on track, a final decision on location would occur by 2012.

Though not incredibly successful in the long run, the 2009 protest in Guangzhou was one of the most visible environmental protests in China following the successful closure of a chemical plant in Xiamen in 2007 (see “Chinese residents force relocation of chemical plant in Xiamen, 2007”), and is considered to be the inspiration for some of the “not-in-my-backyard” grassroots environmental protests in 2010 and 2011.


The local residents were noted to follow similar organization and communication patterns as the successful protest of a chemical plant in Xiamen in 2007 ("Chinese residents force relocation of chemical plant in Xiamen, 2007"). (1) This protest is one of a series of incredibly public and influential grassroots environmental protests in China from 2008-2009 that have led to increasingly rural and proliferated protest in recent years. (2)


Caixiong, Zheng. "Heated Opposition Feared for City's Incinerator Plan|Nation|" Chinadaily US Edition. China Daily Information Co, 17 Sept. 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.

"Guangzhou Environmental Protest." China Environmental Law. China Environmental Law, 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <>.

"Guangzhou Unveils 5 Possible Sites for Garbage Incinerator - What's On Shenzhen." What's On Shenzhen - Your Guide to Shenzhen China. What's On Shenzhen, 16 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>. This site contains materials from other clearly stated media sources.

Hooper, Cary. "Protest in Guangzhou: Why Would You Burn Garbage? - Shanghaiist." Shanghaiist: Shanghai News, Food, Arts & Events. Shanghaiist, 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <>.

"Life of Guangzhou - Controversial Garbage Incinerator Project Delayed in Guangzhou's Panyu." Life of Guangzhou - News, Stories of & Locals' Guide to Life & Business of Guangzhou (Canton), Guangdong. Ed. Jessie Hwang. Guangzhou Interactive Information Network Company, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>. Translated from source at Xinhua.

"Location for a Garbage Incinerator in Panyu District of Guangzhou to Be Announced Today." China Green News. Trans. Tong Jun. Ed. Lucy Chen and Karen Marshall. China Green News, 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.
This article is translated from an original in the Yangcheng Evening Post, found here

Ramzy, Austin. "China Environmental Protests Gather Force Online - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - Time, 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <,8599,1942130,00.html>.

Watts, Jonathan. "Chinese Protesters Confront Police over Incinerator Plans in Guangzhou | Environment |" Latest News, Sport and Comment from the Guardian | The Guardian. The Guardian, 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.

Additional Notes

Due to state censorship, locating data on this case is difficult. Researchers can benefit from local blogs and western-depictions of events, but should be cautious when drawing out details due to discrepancies in translation and exaggeration.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Pauline Blount, 26/11/2011