Instead of protecting villagers suffering from pollution, the authorities sided with a mining company and violently quashed the protests.
The village of Wanzhai in Guangping town suffers from extreme environmental pollution mainly caused by the Minlu Mining Company. This April, after years of fighting for their rights, activist villagers were arrested for “exploiting clan forces to rampage the village” and for organizing “meetings to create a disturbance.” The polluting company remained unpunished, and the village’s agricultural production has been compromised.
The area around Wanzhai village has an abundant supply of coal, limestone, and other mineral resources. Since 1996, private companies have been recklessly exploiting the resources with the government’s permission by opening up numerous coal and limestone mines. As waste from the mines flows down the river, the once crystal-clear riverbed has become filled with residue, and the river water, as well as groundwater around it, is now severely polluted. As a result, villagers’ agricultural production has dropped significantly over the years.
In September 2016, attempting to protect their water sources, villagers sent a representative to negotiate with the Minlu Company many times and reported their problems to various government departments. In one instance, villagers even got down on their knees and begged Datian county’s Party committee leaders to stop the mining operations. The government officials turned a deaf ear to the villagers.
When villagers wanted to hire a lawyer to protect their rights, a public security official told them, “Hiring a lawyer is useless and a waste of money. Every mining company has a benefit-based relationship with government officials. You can’t win against the government.”
In mid-April 2018, after multiple complaints to the local government remained unanswered, villagers approached the media hoping to make the government listen to their problems. Instead, the Sanming city government not only failed to solve the villagers’ problems but accused them of being “deliberately provocative,” and demanded local authorities to deal with the matter.
As a result, Guangping town authorities hired local thugs to violently dispel Wanzhai village inhabitants who were seeking to defend their rights, injuring several women and seniors in the process. A woman in her seventies was dragged along the ground and fell unconscious while local police officers ignored the assault. The town’s deputy mayor Chen Jiasheng threatened that if the villagers continued to block and oppose the mining project, they would be thrown into the river and drowned.
Villagers assaulted for protecting their rights.
Witnesses heard how the Minlu Mining Company’s representative, Mr. Yu, told the hired thugs, “If you kill a few villagers, it’s okay. The company can just pay some money to resolve it.”
On April 28, the police arrested villagers Yu Changwu and Yu Youyi for “directing villagers to obstruct Minlu Mining Company from mining” and “disturbing social order.” Police officers took turns interrogating them for three days and nights without allowing them to sleep; the two were detained for 32 days.
Nearly 20 villagers were interrogated at the local police station, and 38 more were listed for arrests. The Public Security Bureau’s criminal police brigade issued arrest warrants for three village activists Yu Wenkang, Yu Wenle, and Yu Wencheng, the warrant for Yu Wenkang was posted online. Since then, they have been in hiding, afraid to return home.
Reported by Lin Yijiang