02 June 2007

Chinese eco-protest takes high-tech path

Chinese eco-protest takes high-tech path

Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
Saturday, June 2, 2007

(06-02) 04:00 PDT Beijing -- In the cat-and-mouse game that characterizes political protest in China, the mice won a round this week. They did it by finding a new way to use a familiar form of technology.

Opponents of a chemical plant being built in the coastal city of Xiamen used cell phone text messaging to broadcast their warning of dire consequences if the factory opened.

"Once this extremely poisonous chemical is produced, it means an atomic bomb will have been placed in Xiamen," the text message said in Chinese characters. "The people of Xiamen will have to live with leukemia and deformed babies. We want our lives and health!"

Spreading like a virus, the message was repeated more than a million times, environmentalists said, until it had reached practically everyone in Xiamen, a southeastern city of 1.5 million known for its clean air and scenic views. It also spread beyond cell phones, splashed on walls in the form of graffiti and posted in blogs and other Web sites throughout China.

On Wednesday, in a move that caught almost everyone by surprise, municipal authorities announced that they were suspending construction of the plant.

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