Last week, villagers in China attacked a metalwork factory that was polluting the local environment. The incident is only one in a series of confrontations that have taken place in recent months. Social unrest, driven by environmental concerns, is on the rise in China.
Residents of Baha, a town in the southwestern province of Yunnan, blamed the factory for air pollution that has been settling on their crops, making them impossible to sell. Last week, the villagers destroyed equipment and offices after the factory manager refused to meet with them and discuss their concerns. The vandalism led to a clash with police and the subsequent arrest of a number of protestors.
Disputes like this have been growing in number recently in China. However, they have generally taken place in the more developed coastal area. This is one of the first confrontations in a rural inland region. It demonstrates the growing sensitivity of residents across the country to environmental damage in their local environments. As of yet, there has not been a major incident involving a Western corporation. However, companies with operations in China will certainly be watching with concern. The risks to a corporation’s reputation are the greatest hazard in this situation.