Once Again, Chinese Residents Push Back Against A Petrochemical Project And Call For Environmental Impact Review

Not in their backyards.

That’s what hundreds of residents of the Kunming, a city of more than six million in southern China, are saying about a plan to produce a petrochemical called paraxylene in their proverbial backyard.

In a second protest in a month, local residents took to the streets against the plan. In a country whose government has traditionally taken a hard stance against public dissent, the demonstrations were met with only a light police response, according to images of the scene posted on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter that has become a go-to destination for activists and China-watchers alike.

Environmental protests in recent years seem to indicate that many Chinese are becoming more vocal proponents of sustainable development than ever amid their country’s aggressive drive for economic growth and jobs creation.

"Be open with the environmental impact assessment, oppose pollution," read one protestors’ banner, according to Reuters.

In 2011, a similar project to manufacture paraxylene was suspended in the northeastern coastal city of Dalian after formidable push-back from the locals. In November a petrochemical facility owned by Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (SHA:600688), a major Chinese refiner, was suspended in the eastern coastal city of Ningbo pending a “scientific review,” according to Voice of America.

What Is Paraxylene?

Also known as p-xylene, or PX, it’s one of three highly flammable hydrocarbons utilizing benzene. Xylene is used as a solvent to thin paints, and is a common component in the rubber and leather industries. It can also be used as a cleaning agent, but it requires protective gear due to its toxicity. P-xylene is most commonly used in the production of polyester fabrics and plastic bottles. The chemical can cause minor to significant skin irritation, and when its fumes are inhaled, it can cause chemical pneumonitis. Long-term exposure can cause damage to the central nervous system, reproductive system and can damage human development.

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