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September 26, 2017

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China cancels waste project after violent protest

QIDONG, China -- Chinese officials cancelled an industrial waste pipeline project on Saturday after anti-pollution demonstrators occupied a government office in eastern China, destroying computers and overturning cars.

The demonstration was the latest in a string of protests sparked by fears of environmental degradation and highlights the social tensions the government in Beijing faces as it approaches a leadership transition this year.

It was also the second cancellation of an industrial project this month, as officials buckle under pressure from protests.

Zhang Guohua, mayor of the eastern city of Nantong, said in a statement the city would terminate the planned pipeline that would have emptied wastewater from a Japanese-owned paper factory into the sea near Qidong.

The decision came hours after about 1,000 protesters marched through the city of Qidong, about one hour north of Shanghai, shouting slogans against the pipeline.

"The government says the waste will not pollute the sea, but if that's true, then why don't they dump it into Yangtze River?" Lu Shuai, a 25-year-old protester who works in logistics, said while marching.

"It is because if they dump it into the river, it will have an impact on people in Shanghai and people in Shanghai will oppose it."

Several protesters entered the city government's main building where they smashed computers, overturned desks and threw documents out the windows to loud cheers from the crowd. Reuters witnessed five cars and one minibus being overturned.

At least two police were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten enough to bleed.

Environmental worries have stoked calls for expanded rights for citizens and greater consultation in the tightly controlled one-party state.

The outpouring of public anger is emblematic of the rising discontent facing Chinese leaders, who are obsessed with maintaining stability and struggling to balance growth with rising public anger over environmental threats.

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