Villagers, China clash in poison case

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Our Shanghai Bureau chief told you a couple of weeks ago about a lead poisoning case in China's Hunan province. More than a thousand kids are now diagnosed; they live by a manganese smelting facility that discharged lead into the environment. Now, village parents have reportedly been detained, and the local government is accused of reneging on payments to the children's families. Marketplace's Scott Tong has the latest.


Scott Tong: Local police have posted a notice in the village saying 15 parents have been detained or turned themselves in. The parents are accused of protesting against the factory that the government says is the lead poisoning source.

This villager surnamed Qiu reads us the notice. It accuses the detained parents of being "deluded" by the Falun Gong spiritual group. For years, China's cracked down on Falun Gong, calling it an evil cult. Ms. Qiu laughed off any suggestion the villagers are linked to Falun Gong.

Paul Harris thinks the government's allegation is meant to discredit the parents. He teaches environmental studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Paul Harris: The ultimate bogeyman is going to be Falun Gong. So if you can associate the protesters with that, then any measures that security officials use to crack down will therefore be considered justified.

Despite the police notice, government spokesman Zeng Zhao Xun told Marketplace today that no parents are being detained. He says one person in custody is the smelting plant's boss, who he says turned himself in last Thursday. The spokesman also says the government is compensating affected families, though a relative of one parent says he went to collect his share and was denied.

In Shanghai, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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