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'Text protest' blocks China plant

30 May 07 13:08 GMT

Residents of the eastern Chinese city of Xiamen have blocked construction of a chemical plant with a text message campaign, media reports say.

Opponents of the plant said they circulated nearly one million mobile phone messages to organise opposition, Xinhua news agency said.

Authorities in Xiamen have halted the construction of the plant to make paraxylene, a chemical in polyester.

Protesters said the plant posed health and environmental risks.

Potential carcinogen

The $1.4bn (£700,000) plant was already under construction 7km (4.3 miles) from Xiamen's city centre, a distance that protesters said put the city's 1.5 million residents and the environment at risk from pollution.

Paraxylene is a petrochemical that goes into the making of polyesters and fabrics.

It is potentially carcinogenic.

The text messages urged people to join a protest rally planned for Friday, Chinese media said.

"When this massive toxic chemical product goes into production, that will mean an atomic bomb has been released all over Xiamen island," said one version of the text cited by the Southern Metropolitan Daily.

The project's reversal highlights public fears in China over industrial pollution after years of breakneck economic growth.

China's cities, countryside, waterways and coastlines are among the most polluted in the world.

The central government in Beijing has promised to clean up pollution, but local authorities are often keen to authorise projects that will bring in local revenue.

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