Government officials in northern China have vowed to shut down several chemical plants after protests against pollution apparently turned violent. One person was killed and dozens arrested at the weekend when around 2,000 police broke up demonstrations in China's Inner Mongolia region, the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre (SMHRIC) said. Large and sometimes violent protests against factories have become more common in China in recent years, where industry is a cause of widespread air, water and soil pollution. Pictures posted online showed people gathering on a countryside road beside an overturned police car, as well as dozens of riot police with shields and dogs. Used tear gas canisters lay on the ground. One banner hanging over a roadblock read: "Push out the chemicals, give us back clean water and blue skies." The images could not immediately be verified.
SMHRIC on Monday cited locals as saying that a local "chemical refinery zone" had discharged waste directly onto grazing land used by members of the local Mongol minority in Naiman Banner, a mainly rural region. Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, the organization added. “About 100 people were injured and 50 were arrested. One of the injured was confirmed dead in the hospital today,” it cited a local woman named Geegee as saying. China's resource-rich Inner Mongolia region sees sporadic demonstrations by Mongols against government policies including resettlement of nomadic herders and vast coalmine development. Government officials in Naiman Banner said in a social media posting Monday they had ordered all firms in a local "chemical zone" to cease production while it investigated. The statement did not say how many firms would be affected by the order, with only one named, Tongliao Longsheng Chemical. Local governments have made similar pledges in response to past protests, but the orders have not always been enforced. Calls to police and government officials in Naiman Banner went unanswered on Tuesday. AFP
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