One blogger in China found herself in trouble with authorities after posting a petition on the White House site. But it's not the Americans who are after her -- it's the police in her native country.
On May 7, a young woman in Chengdu created a petition on the White House site calling for international attention on a controversial petrochemical plant in southern Sichuan province. The Pengzhou petrochemical plant, 12 miles (19 km) from the Sichuan capital, will refine 10 million tons of crude oil and produce 800,000 tons of ethylene every year.
The petition highlights local concerns over various environmental hazards that the plant will bring, as well as the proximity of the plant to an earthquake fault line.
In the petition, posted anonymously with only the initials B.Y., she noted that two deadly earthquakes have been recorded in Sichuan in recent history. One occurred in 2008, just ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, and measured an 8.0 on the Richter scale, taking the lives of more than 69,000 people and leaving several thousand missing. The other occurred less than a month ago, on April 20, in the Ya’an area of then province. Recovery efforts for the magnitude-7 quake are still underway.
The petition needs 100,000 signatures within 30 days of its creation in order for it to be reviewed. The petition currently has a little more than 2,000 signatures, and support is likely to continue to slow after the blogger was approached by officials.
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According to the South China Morning Post, the young woman behind the petition, who remains anonymous, was visited by security agents after anti-Pengzhou protests reached their climax.
“Please delete the petition,” the agent told her. She told the newspaper that authorities were able to track her down using the registration information on Weibo and invited her to “tea,” a widely understood euphemism for an interrogation with the police.
Because the White House webpage does not allow for petitions to be deleted by creators, the blogger posted on Weibo asking for help. “Help needed! Will someone please tell me how to delete a White House petition? The police have talked to me, and I am scared,” she posted.
Two days later, her help inquiry was deleted by Weibo censors.
The Pengzhou plant has quickly become a hot-button issue in China, as protests in the Chengdu area required local authorities to mobilize thousands of police officers to subdue the situation.
Two renowned Chengdu scholars, Xiao Xuehui and Ran Yunfei, also had their Weibo accounts deleted after being very vocal on their profiles about their opposition to the plant.
State-owned PetroChina (NYSE:PTR) has attempted to ease environmental concerns. The company claims that air pollution would actually improve as a result of the plant because higher-quality gasoline, which the factory produces, will be used by vehicles in the area.
“We promise not to start production unless the plant passes environmental protection tests,” a statement read.