Protest prompts China to cancel Jiangmen uranium plant

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC Correspondent John Sudworth: "The protest appears to have achieve its aims... but protesters are reported to be concerned that it is simply a delaying tactic."

China has cancelled plans to build a uranium processing plant the day after hundreds of protesters took to the streets to oppose the project.

The 37bn yuan (£4bn) project, close to the southern city of Jiangmen, would have provided enough fuel for around half of China's atomic energy needs.

It had been part of a national effort to reduce China's reliance on coal and boost the use of clean energy.

The rally was organised online and billed as an "innocent stroll".

But it brought almost 1,000 people onto the streets of Jiangmen, which is just 100km (62 miles) from Hong Kong.

Protesters facing off with helmeted police officers chanted slogans and carried banners ranging from "Anti-nuclear" to "We want children, not atoms."

The rally followed an invitation for public comments during a 10-day consultation period after a risk evaluation report of the planned project was published on 4 July.

Effective move

Protesters said that was not long enough to debate the pros and cons of such a major project.

Within 24 hours of the street protest, the local government published a one-line statement rejecting the project.

"The people's government of the city of Heshan has decided to respect the public opinion and will not consider CNNC's Longwan industrial park project," it said.

In the end it seems the desire for stability and order trumped other, more economic, reasons, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai.

Public protests may be severely curtailed in China, but they can, on occasion, prove effective, he adds.

But some Jiangmen protesters are concerned the uranium plant project may just have been postponed, rather than cancelled altogether.

Environmental concerns are becoming an increasing focus of public dissent, forcing the cancellation of plans for a chemical plant in the coastal city of Xiamen in 2007, and a similar climb-down in the north-eastern city of Dalian in 2011, says our correspondent.

Earlier this year a retired, senior communist party official, Chen Jiping, told reporters that pollution concerns have replaced land disputes as the main cause of social unrest in China.

More on this story