Pollution activist assaulted in China


A Chinese farmer who publicised devastating local river pollution by offering cash to local environmental protection officials to swim in foul rivers has been assaulted by several dozen people who broke into his home and ransacked it.

Chen Zuqian, from the town of Banqiao in Zheijiang province, was inspired by a number of offers by local businessmen, who offered big cash prizes if local government officials would swim in scummy waters.

China’s choking air pollution has dominated the headlines in the past few months, and public anger about the country’s polluted waterways is rising. Local media are starting to publicise the filthy rivers, while government sensitivity is increasing.

One fifth of China’s rivers are so polluted that the water quality is too poisonous for human contact, while 40 per cent of all waterways are seriously polluted, according to information released by state media.

Poisoning rivers

Mr Chen had made it his life’s purpose to shutter the paper mills poisoning his local rivers. His daughter, 32-year-old Chen Xiufang, said there had been a mystery illnesses in the family. However, his online offer incurred the wrath of local government officials.

Ms Chen told The Irish Times that he was ill-prepared for the outburst of aggression that followed. After he made his own modest online posting, a group of people came to his house and badly beat him.

“At 6am on the 24th, around 40 men and women in plain clothes who were recruited by the government came to the house, and only my father was at home. They came in and they started smashing everything,” said Ms Chen.

She said her father hid in the room and called the police. After this, she went out and found the local police chief, but he insisted he was in a difficult situation.

Ms Chen said her father was injured and he had been on a drip for three days.


Over the five years to 2010, China spent 700 billion yuan (€86 billion) on water infrastructure, but much of its water remains undrinkable.

China’s economic boom has been fuelled by factory output, and there are regular horror stories of disastrous poisoning of rivers.

There are stories every year about rivers and lakes throughout the country becoming blocked by algae blooms caused by fertiliser run-off, chemical spills and untreated sewage discharges.

Last month, nine tonnes of the chemical aniline, which is used to make polyurethane and smells of rotten fish, leaked into a river in northern China, contaminating the water supply of a neighbouring province.

Increasingly, the desperate state of China’s rivers is not just an issue for environmental activists. All over the country, local entrepreneurs are getting into the business of pushing for a better clean-up of the rivers.