China says no waste plant without support after protests

Riot policemen (R) defend themselves with shields during a protest against the construction of a waste incinerator, in the Yuhang district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province May 10, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - A government in eastern China will shelve plans to build a huge waste incinerator if it does not have popular support, in an apparent victory for protesters who had clashed with police saying they feared the plant would damage their health.

Choking smog blankets many Chinese cities and the environmental degradation resulting from the country's breakneck economic growth is angering its increasingly well-educated and affluent population.

Similar protests have also succeeded in getting projects elsewhere in China shut down.

The eastern city of Ningbo suspended a petrochemical project after days of demonstrations in November 2012, and protests forced the suspension of a paraxylene plant in the northeastern city of Dalian the year before.

The latest demonstrations, which have lasted more than two weeks, turned violent on Saturday, with hundreds of police descending on to the streets of Yuhang, close to the tourist city of Hangzhou.

In a statement on its website late on Saturday, the Yuhang government said that all work on the incinerator had stopped, and that it would invite the public to participate in a decision

whether to press ahead with the scheme.

We will "invite the local people to participate, fully listen to and seek everyone's opinions, and guarantee people's right to know what is happening and right to participate", it said.

The government added that it hoped that people would end their protests and "maintain normal social public order and jointly maintain social stability".

It added that the protests by "several hundred people" had affected normal life, though it recognized that this was a reflection of people's concern.

Pictures obtained by Reuters of the unrest showed police fighting with, and detaining, protesters. Other pictures, on China's Twitter-like Weibo, showed at least two overturned police cars.

At least 10 protesters and 29 policemen were injured, the official Xinhua news agency said. One protester and one policeman were seriously injured, it added.

More than 30 cars were overturned, two police cars set on fire and another four smashed up, Xinhua said.

Hangzhou, capital of prosperous Zhejiang province and best known in China as the site of a famous lake, has seen its luster dimmed in recent years by a recurrent smog problem.

About 90,000 "mass incidents" - a euphemism for protests - occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances.

Late in March, hundreds of residents of the southern town of Maoming staged protests against plans to build a petrochemical plant there, for fear it would contribute to pollution.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)