Tian­jin res­i­dents call for com­pen­sa­tion, an­swers

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KELLY OLSEN

Res­i­dents who fled their homes near vast and deadly ex­plo­sions in the main­land Chi­nese port city of Tian­jin gath­ered in anger on Mon­day to de­mand re­dress from a gov­ern­ment they say is ig­nor­ing their plight.

About 150 peo­ple, some with their faces scarred and many wear­ing pro­tec­tive breath­ing masks, de­scended on a ho­tel where gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have been hold­ing daily press brief­ings on the dis­as­ter.

“Buy back!,” they shouted re­peat­edly and in uni­son, de­mand­ing com­pen­sa­tion for their lost homes and be­long­ings.

Many said they lived just 600 me­ters from the dis­as­ter, which struck Wed­nes­day night and left a wide swathe of the area in ru­ins.

Liu Liang, a fash­ion de­signer who lives in a de­vel­op­ment called Har­bour City, com­plained that res­i­dents were get­ting no an­swers from the gov­ern­ment and be­ing treated im­prop­erly.

He ran and left ev­ery­thing be­hind when the dis­as­ter struck, he told AFP, re­mov­ing a ban­dage to show stitches near his left eye.

“The wa­ter, the air, the un­der­ground wa­ter are pol­luted,” he said, voic­ing the fears of many. “We can’t live here,” he added. De­spite their fury, the protes- tors at­tempted to show hu­mil­ity to­wards the author­i­ties.

“Prop­erty own­ers of Har­bour City: We love the Party, trust the gov­ern­ment and plead for buy­back,” read a ban­ner in white Chi­nese char­ac­ters on a red back­ground.

Some held small in­di­vid­ual signs say­ing: “We res­o­lutely de­mand gov­ern­ment buy­back.

Four of­fi­cials who held a press con­fer­ence in the ho­tel base­ment did not meet the protesters and left im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards.

Some of the de­mon­stra­tors were fo­cused on their fam­i­lies and health.

One woman, wear­ing a blue face mask, held a sign read­ing: “Dad, wait­ing for you to re­turn home.”

Another ban­ner pleaded: “Give the chil­dren of Har­bour City a clean fu­ture.”

Po­lice and other se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing spe­cial­ized po­lice teams and some in cam­ou­flage, stood by watch­ing but no moves were made to stop the gath­er­ing, which dis­persed af­ter a few hours.

Demon­stra­tions have be­come in­creas­ingly fre­quent in main­land China in re­cent years over lo­cal is­sues such as pol­lu­tion and cor­rup­tion, but are more com­mon in ru­ral ar­eas and sec­ond- and third-tier cities.

Author­i­ties of­ten tol­er­ate them so long as they evince no signs that protesters are ef­fec­tively or­ga­niz­ing be­yond their own given lo­cale, and do not make de­mands or crit­i­cisms of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture, such as con­demn­ing the rul­ing Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP).

Wen Jing, another par­tic­i­pant, said she, her sis­ter and their par­ents “ran away” from their 33rd­floor apart­ment on Wed­nes­day night and are stay­ing in a ho­tel for now.

“We can’t go back to our home,” she said, adding it was “to­tally” dam­aged.

She too ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with of­fi­cials.

“They haven’t spo­ken a word to us yet,” she said.

“No one has no­ticed us yet. No one said any­thing to us.”

Top main­land CCP of­fi­cial Li Ke­qiang vis­ited Tian­jin on Sun­day to in­spect the area, a com­mon de­vel­op­ment af­ter ma­jor dis­as­ters in the coun­try, where top lead­ers are keen to show they are re­spond­ing ef­fec­tively. The vis­its are highly con­trolled and chore­ographed.

But Liu was not im­pressed. “No de­tails, no de­tails,” he re­peated.

AFP

Peo­ple in­jured in the ex­plo­sions that hit a nearby chem­i­cal ware­house last week hold photos of their wounds as they join a protest out­side the ho­tel where author­i­ties are hold­ing a press con­fer­ence in Tian­jin on Mon­day, Aug. 17. The ban­ner reads “Gov­ern­ment buy-back.”

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