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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
China farmers force plant closure
Village in rural China
Rural China has benefited far less from reforms
Farmers in eastern China have forced a pharmaceutical plant to halt activity amid a protest over factory pollution, plant officials have said.

The factory in Zhejiang province has been closed since protesters stormed the site on 4 July, officials said.

The New York Times says protesters allege that a fatal explosion at the plant has contaminated a local river.

Correspondents say the clash follows a string of rural protests sparked by claims of pollution and corruption.

Another riot in the same province in April was also prompted by allegations of factory pollution.

'Rapid development'

As many as 15,000 people clashed with police at the Jingxin Pharmaceutical Company on Sunday night, according to the New York Times.

Residents of the factory town of Xinchang told the newspaper they would protest until they have forced the plant to relocate.

"This is the only way to solve problems like ours," one protester said.

"If you go to see the mayor or some city official, they just take your money and do nothing."

Villagers said the demand was prompted by factors including the alleged beating by plant guards of representatives demanding compensation for the effects of the explosion.

"Following the rapid development of Xinchang's industrial economy, the clustered population in the city and lessening rainfall in Zhejiang, the problem of pollution in the Xinchang River is increasingly severe," the plant said in a statement.

A factory official told the Associated Press news agency that government officials were negotiating with the farmers.



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